Summer's poisonous plants

ST. PATRICK'S COUNTY PARK Don't let nature's beauty be spoiled by pesky plants. Poison Ivy can grow in both wooded and sunny conditions. In fact, it can grow just about anywhere except wetlands.

Not everyone has a reaction to Poison Ivy, but that can change over time. The oil within the plant is what causes the irritation.

"It depends how much exposure you have with the oil in the leaves," said Evie Kirkwood, the Director of St. Joseph County Parks.

"Most people get a little bit of a rash, blisters, redness. And it's really unpleasant especially as the temperatures get hotter and our reaction gets more irritated."

Poison Ivy can grow on the ground or as a vine on a tree. When it's in vine form, it's identifiable because of the hairy stem, which grows thicker as it ages.

The plant can also be spotted by noticing the shape of the leaves. It grows with three leaflets that are somewhat jagged around the ages.

"Usually the left pointing and right pointing leaflets have little 'thumbs' pointing to the outside," said Kirkwood.

"And the middle leaflet has almost like two 'thumbs,' like a mitten with two thumbs."

The good news, there are home remedies that will treat most Poison Ivy outbreaks.

Dr. Rob Riley, of Memorial Family Medicine, says most people struggle with itching.

"A lot of times people will get reasonable relief with cool compresses with a little baking soda in it. Or they can take over the counter medications that contain antihistamines, things like Benadryl and its cousins will often times help reduce the itching."

Poison Ivy is often confused with plants that don't cause allergic reactions, like Virginia Creeper and Jack in the Pulpit. Both plants thrive in similar environments as Poison Ivy, so they often grow near each other.

Click here for more information about Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.

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