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Wednesday - September 09, 2015

From: Merrick, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Urushiol Oil Persistance?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I'm trekking into poison ivy infested areas for work every other day. I make sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, boots, and long socks over my pants. I walk into my office to drop off supplies and sit at my work desk before taking my boots off and driving in my car. Will the oil under my desk transfer to my clean work shoes when I'm working in the office? Will soaking my clothes in hot water and detergent and rubbing alcohol before hand washing them remove the oils? I've never touched poison ivy before and am very paranoid, but I have sensitive skin so I assume I will be highly allergic to this plant. Thanks in advance!

ANSWER:

Poison ivy (Toxicodenron radicans) is a problem plant for 85% of the population. But of the 15% of the population that are immune to the blistery rash that the oils from this plant produces, you can gain or lose immunity as you age. The suggestion is to never assume that you are immune no matter what past experiences you have.

The www.poison-ivy.org website reports that the plant oil, urushiol, is extremely stable and will stay active for many years in the right conditions, for example, on the underside of your lawnmower: you go to clean it out in the spring, forgetting that you used it in poison ivy last fall. And word is that a museum had 50-year old poison ivy samples which caused a rash when touched.

Many authorities recommend a degreasing type of detergent and hot water to wash clothes that have been contaminated by urushiol oil. Oregon State University Extension also suggests that even the tiniest particle of urushiol on the skin can cause a severe reaction. For cleaning tools they suggest using Original Tecnu applied full strength and wiped off after 2 minutes.

They also offer information about Tecnu Extreme—was developed in 2005 after direct input the field. Tecnu Extreme has micro-fine scrubbing beads and special surfactants to remove embedded urushiol from the skin and is the best choice if there is access to water. Tecnu Extreme can be used to prevent a rash, stop the itching or stop an existing rash from spreading. Use Tecnu Extreme within 8 hours after exposure to urushiol to avoid the rash. Using it at any point before the rash actually starts can be helpful. Be extra diligent when washing areas where skin creases (behind the knees, the bend at the elbow, fingers) because urushiol accumulates in these areas. They also discuss removing urushiol from clothing using Tecnu. It can be used as a preventative or as treatment after exposure.

Lastly, get to know all the many forms of poison ivy from seedling to shrub to vine. Also how it looks during all four seasons of the year. Poison ivy can still create havoc during the winter time and never burn the plant as the smoke can carry the oil into your lungs. It is wise to be extra vigilant.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans



Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

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