Protecting your family from poison ivy

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — If you’ve been out in your yard, in the woods are at a park recently you’ve probably come across poison ivy. It’s often mixed in with other vegetation and can be hard to spot.

“The saying is leaves of three, let it be,” said Vincent Lavorgna, ranger at Brooksvale Park in Hamden.

The grouping of three leaves is the signature appearance of poison ivy. The leaves also have a shine to them.

“Poison ivy is always in the search to gain sunlight so it will spread as a ground cover,” said Lavorgna.

Poison ivy also likes to grow up trees. You can tell by vines that have little hairs on them. Once the oil from a poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac leaf gets on your skin the irritation starts. Roughly 50% of people have a reaction to poison ivy. It can take that reaction anywhere from four hours to four days to show up. It can also last a week or more.

“It can be uncomfortable, it can be painful, it can be itchy,” said Dr. Kathryn Hawk, emergency room physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Usually for bug bites you’ll have or one two or a couple that are scattered, but the thing about poison ivy, sumac or oak you often will have a track going up your arm. It will be in a linear cluster,” said Dr. Hawk.

In terms of treatment Dr. Hawk says a cool washcloth can ease the pain. There’s also anti-itch creams that can provide some relief. If you have a very severe case of poison ivy you may need a prescription steroid.

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