Poisonous plants may not look too imposing, but recognizing them will save your skin, literally.
If you the reader are like the estimated 50 to 80 percent of the general population, you may be sensitive to the various species of these plants. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac contain an oily resin called Urisol, which is found in the leaves, stems and roots.
Exposure can be as easy as merely brushing up against a leaf or aerial root. Reactions vary, and can cause anything from a mild allergic reaction to intense itching, burning and skin outbreaks of weeping blisters.
One outdoor adventurer says, "My mom could pick it like flowers. I'm like my dad though; if I even look sideways at this stuff I get nailed. It seems to jump through the air and go from 'stem to stern.' I hate it with a passion."
Medically known as Acute Contact Dermatitis, the "Seven Year Itch" is a misdemeanor compared to a bout with this stuff, which can seem like a felony stint at the state penitentiary.
Most outdoor types have heard the horror stories of some unfortunate camper who lacking the proper toiletry items, had ventured off the beaten path to "ease nature," finishing up their business with a convenient leaf. Within 12 to 24 hours they often find themselves at the hospital begging for mercy.
What a way to ruin a camping trip!
Houstonian Kathy G. tells the story of a friend at summer camp exposed in this manner. To paraphrase her story; "If she had been a horse, she would have asked to be shot." For those of us that insist on seeing proof, go here and click on "Rash Photos."
Poison Oak: Not to be messed with
A word to the wise; next deer season, when clearing sight lines and shooting lanes of branches and debris, be aware that the toxic oil is present throughout the year even when the leaves are not.
Cutting these plants can even disperse the oil into the air, making for a most unpleasant evening for those unfortunates who are allergic. Clothing and tools contaminated by urisol can remain so for over a year after exposure unless treated appropriately.
If you find yourself in the outback and decide to make a sandwich with it, be aware that ingestion can be fatal. Imagine having blisters on the inside of your mouth and throat. Oh please, just kill me now...
Use caution when burning logs at camp, too. Wood with vines attached should not be burned. If the vines were to be of a poisonous variety, the poison would be released into the air with the smoke, which can cause extreme respiratory distress and could be fatal.
Distinct white berries on poison sumac
There is a plethora of remedies, both homemade, over the counter and prescription. We cannot condone or advise for or against any specific treatment (we aren't doctors!).
One thing is sure: this season, as you venture out into the wilds, know your plants.
The old adage "leaves of three, beware thee" and "white berry, poison wary" is best heeded.
And never, ever, forget the toilet paper.