Itchy, Scratchy, & Rashy – Bad Things Come in Threes…

first_imgThey say bad things come in threes. Poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak are three of the evilest plants out there. At least 50 percent of people who come into contact with these plants are allergic to them and will develop an itchy rash which can last as long as three weeks.The best way to prevent a rash is to avoid poisonous plants all together. But if you are determined to get that D5/T5, then you need to know how to protect yourself. Avid geocacher (and dedicated nurse) Kelley Piekarek* put together these safety tips so all outdoor enthusiasts can keep themselves safe during geocaching’s busy season.Prevention:The best way to avoid the rash is to avoid the plant. The best way to avoid the plant is to know what they look like and where they grow.Poison ivy is reddish in spring, green in summer, and yellow/orange/red in autumnPoison ivy:Found throughout Canada and the United States except for parts of the West Coast. Can grow as a hairy vine or small shrub trailing along the ground or climbing on low plants, trees, and poles. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets with smooth or toothed edges. Leaves are reddish in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Found in woody areas, thickets, and moist places.Poison sumac is orange in spring, green in summer, and yellow/orange/red in autumn. Often, the leaves have spots that look like blotches of black paint.Poison sumac:Grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs or swamps in Northeast, Midwest, and parts of Southeastern North America. Each leaf has clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets. Leaves are orange in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Often, the leaves have spots that look like blotches of black paint. May have yellow-greenish flowers and whitish-green fruits that hang in loose clusters. Poison oak leaves tend to be glossy, and the plant grows upright. May have yellow-white berries.Poison oak:Grows as a low shrub in the eastern and southern North America, and in tall clumps or long vines on the Pacific Coast. Poison oak usually has a cluster of three broad leaves, though it can have up to seven. The leaves tend to be glossy, and the plant grows upright. Western poison oak has lobed leaflets like an oak tree, while eastern poison oak is more like a glossy version of poison ivy. May have yellow-white berries.Protection:Keep your skin covered to avoid contact with these plantsWear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, and closed shoes if you’re in an area where these plants may be lurkingTie the bottoms of your pants legs or tuck them into your bootsWear gloves when bushwhackingIt’s a good idea to keep a pair of shoes dedicated for geocaching that can be kept outdoorsOOPS!  I’ve touched it, now what?The chemical that causes the rash is called urushiol and it will stick to your skin when you touch or brush against any part of the plant. It will also contaminate your clothes, ‘caching gear and your geo-dog, too! Remember, you can’t spread the rash to other people, but you can get the rash all over again if you touch contaminated items you haven’t washed.If you know your skin has come in contact with the plants, wash with soap and water immediatelyIf water is not available, wipe down the area with rubbing alcoholWash your clothes with hot soapy waterHose down your boots, geocache bag, leash, and anything else you took on your hikeWash your geo-dog well with soapy water and wear gloves while you do this (she can’t get the rash, but you can get it from her)Some dogs like baths as much as they like geocaching! Help! I have the rash!The rash often looks like a straight line because of the way the plant brushes against the skin. But if you come into contact with a piece of clothing or pet fur that has urushiol on it, the rash may spread out. The rash usually develops 12 to 48 hours after exposure and typically lasts two or three weeks. To treat the rash at home:Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infectionLeave blisters alone—if blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin since the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infectionConsider applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone creamConsider taking antihistamine pills (with your doctor’s approval)Rash caused by poison ivy – and this is one of the “nicer’ imagesIf you have any of the following symptoms, you need to go to the Emergency Room. Like, right now:You have trouble breathing or swallowingThe rash covers most of your bodyYou experience swelling, especially if an eyelid swells shutMuch of your skin itches, or nothing seems to ease the itchYou develop a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C)The rash doesn’t get better within a few weeksStay safe out there my friends, and cache on! How do you stay safe while enjoying your favorite hobby?*If the name Kelley Piekarek sounds familiar, it may be from this story that made national geocaching news in February of this year. Woof! Share with your Friends:Morecenter_img SharePrint RelatedBeware the Tall Grasses! Or, Death of a BatteryMay 20, 2014In “Maker Madness”10 mistakes to avoid while geocachingFebruary 26, 2019In “News”Geocaching.com Co-Founder Celebrates Ten Years of Geo-LoveNovember 18, 2011In “Community”last_img read more