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Outsmarting Poison Ivy and its Cousins
Pamela Lillian Isley can manipulate plants in unexplained ways. They bend to her will, growing and threatening the environment and society--at least in Gotham City. In the world of Batman, the fictional Isley is better known as the beautiful criminal Poison Ivy. Her alias is fitting. Just as she is the bane of Batman's existence, in the real world the poison ivy plant--along with its cousins poison oak and poison sumac--is the bane of millions of campers, hikers, gardeners, and others who enjoy the great outdoors.

Approximately 85 percent of the population will develop an allergic reaction if exposed to poison ivy, oak or sumac, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Nearly one-third of forestry workers and firefighters who battle forest fires in California, Oregon and Washington develop rashes or lung irritations from contact with poison oak, which is the most common of the three in those states.

Usually, people develop a sensitivity to poison ivy, oak or sumac only after several encounters with the plants, sometimes over many years. However, sensitivity may occur after only one exposure.

The cause of the rash, blisters, and infamous itch is urushiol (pronounced oo-roo-shee-ohl), a chemical in the sap of poison ivy, oak and sumac plants. Because urushiol is inside the plant, brushing against an intact plant will not cause a reaction. But undamaged plants are rare.

"Poison oak, ivy and sumac are very fragile plants," says William L. Epstein, M.D., professor of dermatology, University of California, San Francisco. Stems or leaves broken by the wind or animals, and even the tiny holes made by chewing insects, can release urushiol.

Reactions, treatments and preventive measures are the same for all three poison plants. Avoiding direct contact with the plants reduces the risk but doesn't guarantee against a reaction. Urushiol can stick to pets, garden tools, balls, or anything it comes in contact with. If the urushiol isn't washed off those objects or animals, just touching them--for example, picking up a ball or petting a dog--could cause a reaction in a susceptible person. (Animals, except for a few higher primates, are not sensitive to urushiol.)

Urushiol that's rubbed off the plants onto other things can remain potent for years, depending on the environment. If the contaminated object is in a dry environment, the potency of the urushiol can last for decades, says Epstein. Even if the environment is warm and moist, the urushiol could still cause a reaction a year later.

"One of the stories I tell people is of the hunter who gets poison oak on his hunting coat," says Epstein. "He puts it on a year later to go hunting and gets a rash [from the urushiol still on the coat]."

Almost all parts of the body are vulnerable to the sticky urushiol, producing the characteristic linear (in a line) rash. Because the urushiol must penetrate the skin to cause a reaction, places where the skin is thick, such as the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands, are less sensitive to the sap than areas where the skin is thinner. The severity of the reaction may also depend on how big a dose of urushiol the person got.
 

Testimonials

"Thanks for giving my husband the poison ivy relief for me. I was a mess I had it on my arms, legs, and even in my hair. After putting your product on, it was gone in 36 hours. Thanks again!"
- Deb R. Maine

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In The Press

Read More about Natures Poison Ivy Cure in this recent interview by Bob Rand at Buy Direct.com

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