Richard Cone, of Camp Lake, near Sparta, found out the hard way that getting rid of poison ivy can be a tricky business. Cone recently cut down a tree in his yard, and attached to it was a poison ivy vine that he said measured 8 inches in diameter. The woody vine looked like a tree branch on top of the tree. He said he was using a chainsaw, and woodchips were flying everywhere, which meant he got the poison ivy oil on his clothes and hands.
“I used some Dawn dish soap to scrub the oil off, and the rash was gone in a couple of days,” he said.
We sent the photo of the poison ivy vine to Ranger Steve Mueller. He said that if it was poison ivy, then it was larger than he had seen before. He couldn’t positively identify it from the photo. “It looks like it might be ivy covering a woody stem of something else but I can not tell from the picture,” he said.
“I have seen large ivy vines that are about three inches in diameter and climb high into trees. Ivies in southern Michigan grow larger than I typically see in our area. I have seen quite a large one but do not recall if I have seen any 8 inches in diameter.”
The Post did, however, find similar photos of poison ivy vines in an online search.
Mueller said that he would cut the ivy vine at the base of the tree with branch pruners and not remove the vine from the tree. It will grow from the ground again. “After cutting the ivy, it is good to wipe the cutting blade with some bleach. Wear disposable protective gloves,” he cautioned.
Mueller said he uses poison ivy herbicide on poison ivy and some other exotic plants. “I do not encourage use of chemicals but there occasions where I do use chemical treatments sparingly,” he explained.
How do you recognize poison ivy? Mueller said most grow as vines, though some can be free standing plants, under two feet tall. “The plant has leaves divided into three leaflets. The leaflet has three lobes and the margin has a few scattered teeth. The leaflets on the common Box Elder Trees look a lot like Poison Ivy so people can compare the two. Box Elder usually has more leaflets. In the fall the ivy may have white berry clusters,” he explained.
If you do come into contact with poison ivy and develop a rash, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends the following:
Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. If not washed off, the oil can spread from person to person and to other areas of your body.
Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.
Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to rinse your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.
Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.
Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.
Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.
Consider calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Apply calamine lotion to skin that itches. If you have a mild case, a hydrocortisone cream or lotion may also help.
Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching, however use with caution. You should not apply an antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.
If your rash is not improving after seven to 10 days, or you think your rash may be infected, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat your rash and any infection and help relieve the itch.