Michigan State University Extension’s Rebecca Finneran said poison ivy, shown above, is prevalent this year due to a superb growing season.

Heavy rains led to poison ivy growing bigger

By: 
Kayla Deneau, Staff Writer

“This is the time of year everyone does their hikes and goes camping. It is important to be on the lookout for (poison ivy),” said Michigan State University Extension’s Rebecca Finneran.

Finneran said the plants appear to be larger this year due to heavy rains this sping; however, it is no stronger than normal.

“It is a native plant; it is what it is,” she said. “We are seeing it more now because it had a really good growing season.”

While generally individuals look for the three-leafed plant in the woods, Finneran said it is important to be aware it can spring up anywhere—including golf courses and at the zoo.

“Poison ivy seeds are eaten by birds and can be distributed anywhere—in a shrub border, by a telephone pole—anywhere,” she said. “My own mother had a poison ivy seedling in the flower pot and I frequently have them under my birdfeeder.”

Andrea Landis, a physician assistant at Allegan General Hospital, said she has been seeing several cases of poison ivy each day at work.

She said it is fairly prominent, and prevention is the best way to approach poison ivy.

“Stay away from areas where you know it is, and be aware that your pets can carry the oil on them and transfer it as well,” said Landis.

Once skin has come into contact with poison ivy oils, Landis said to immediately shower with oil-cutting or grease-cutting soap.

“Typically, the spots begin to form two to three days after exposure, but everyone is different,” she said. “Spots can sometimes still appear five to seven days later.”

Once someone has washed all the oils off of themselves and any clothes with which it came into contact, the rash is no longer contagious.

“The oozing fluid from the rash cannot spread it from person to person,” said Landis.

She said to treat a poison ivy rash, hydrocortisone 1-percent cream can be applied to the area twice a day. She advised avoiding excessive drying agents—including bleach and Ivy Dry—as they often irritate the skin and increase itching.

The rash typically lasts 7 to 10 days.

“If it lasts longer than 10 days or covers more than half of your body, seek medical attention,” Landis said. “There is no cure, but steroids can be prescribed to help reduce the allergic reaction.”
 

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