Travel Adventure Dangers
USA Adventure Travel

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be a real danger to hikers, backpacker, campers or any tourist that strays into the fields or forests of the USA. This allergy-producing plant can be found all over the US except in the southwestern states, Alaska or Hawaii. It commonly grows on the edge of forests and is frequently seen along hiking trails. Unlike cactus or nettles that can cause immediate discomfort or pain, poison ivy produces no immediate reaction but causes severe discomfort after a few days delay.

Poison Ivy © Mike Leco /
The poison ivy plant has an oily toxin on its leaves that can cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some people.

Poison ivy is a low vine that grows along the ground, and often climbs walls, tree trunks and bushes. It has dark-green, shiny leaves that always appear in goups of three. During the summer, it develops clusters of small, white berries. In the autumn, the leaves turn yellow to bright red.

The poison ivy plant has an oily toxin on its leaves that can cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some people. Any person sensitive to the toxin will experience an allergic reaction one to three days after touching the plant. The reactions range from a mild rash and itch to a severe rash with extensive blisters, painful itch and swelling of the eyes and lips in cases of extreme sensitivity. The symptoms can last up to two weeks.

The best defense is to stay away from poison ivy. Never touch the leaves! If you accidentally touch poison ivy, immediately wash the oil off of your skin with soap and water. Unfortunately, the oil is absorbed into your skin in a few minutes, afterward you can only hope that you are not sensitive to the toxin. If you develop a mild rash from contact with poison ivy, you can purchase some lotions at any pharmacy to relieve the itch. You will certainly suffer some discomfort for at least a few days. If you develop an extensive rash with severe blistering and swelling of the eyes or any problems breathing, consult a doctor.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © D. Gordon E. Robertson / Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0
Photo Description: Poison ivy is found throughout the United States, except for Alaska, Hawai'i and California. It can grow as ground cover or as a climbing vine.