Avoiding that Poison Ivy 

In the summer, bad cases of poison ivy bring people into the ER at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor nearly every day.The vine is common throughout Maine. While poison ivy can be hard to identify, it can be easier to avoid the plant than deal with its itchy consequences.”It’s important for them to know what the plant looks like and how to avoid it.”Leaves of three, let it be. But John Jemison says identifying poison ivy isn’t always that easy.”The leaves can have some scallopy shape to them, some can be fairly round and not have that scallopy look. So there’s a lot of difference in what the plant looks like,” Jemison says. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist says one leaf usually stems off farther than the other two. The vine sometimes has a reddish tint, and the leaves sometimes a slight sheen.”It’s an invader plant, it likes edges. You can find it on edges of trails, edges of golf courses, really almost anywhere,” he says.The oils from the plant can last more than a week on shoes, clothes and bedding. So if you come anywhere near it, wash well with soap as soon as possible.”It causes small vesicles, basically, little fluid filled things, and they’re usually in a line,” says Dr. Tom Dancoes at St. Joseph Hospital. Dancoes says the rash should go away in a few weeks on its own. You can also treat the itch it creates.”Calamine lotion, a thing called Burow’s solution. You can use oatmeal baths,” he says. “If you have a rash and it gets even worse and its spreading like wildfire, and you’re thinking oh my goodness, what am I going to do? You can come to us and we can prescribe a steroid medicine, to be taken orally.”Jemison says don’t burn poison ivy if you find it. The oils can still be bothersome, so call a professional to remove it. Watch your pets, too. “If the pet runs off the trail and goes through poison ivy, then you can get it from the pet’s fur,” Jemison says.And even after the leaves fall, the vine can still cause you problems…so keep an eye out.