On home inspections I always watch for poison ivy.
And you have to! When people buy houses sometimes it is growing all over the siding and the sellers don't know! Someone buying the house can get in there, start ripping out the poison ivy and be rewarded with a huge problem in return! When I see it I point it out to my clients.
Some people aren't affected by it. I don't know what percentage that is, but most people are affected.
And there's poison oak and poison sumac* to look out for!
Poison ivy is a true ivy. It grows everywhere - on trees, on the ground, and on structures.
It has three equal, green leaves, often shiny. It can be a vine or a shrub.
If you see an ivy with a very thick and "hairy" root going up the side of the house or a tree, it is poison ivy.
The plant is very aggressive. It grows by sending out shoots (rhizomes) which can reattach elsewhere on the structure or tree, or grow underground to sprout up elsewhere.
If you see it, try to find the source and spray it there with an herbicide. Cutting it off does not solve the problem. You have to kill the roots.
The source is always in the ground
be careful! Even when it is dead and dried up it can still be dangerous!
The leaves are covered with an oil that will attach to skin or clothing. The oil can be spread from person to person, clothing to clothing, or even animal to human!
Once the oil bonds to the molecules of the skin YOU WILL HAVE POISON IVY, if you are susceptible.
If you think you may have touched poison ivy wash immediately. I have heard using everything from hot to cold water. But the main thing to wash with is dish washing soap. That soap is made to cut grease (oil) and will work well to remove the oil from your skin. Also, wash any clothing that may have touched it. Even your shoes and shoelaces.
Should you get a rash there is not much you can do. Scratching it can spread it! Don't break the little blisters or you WILL spread it! Poison ivy rashes love your eyes!
Reducing the size of blisters may help with the itching. Calamine lotion, alcohol, hydro-cortisone creams, cold compresses and even antihistamine pills can help with that. But expect to have the rash for a while, a couple of weeks or more, especially if you should spread it to other parts of your body. You might consider covering it to prevent touching it. My brother got it terribly every year and used to wear rubber gloves to bed!
My recommendation: knowledge is power. Familiarize yourself with its appearance! When seen avoid it! If you see it growing in your yard it is best to kill it while it is young. But killing it as soon as you see it is not too soon!
* Poison oak looks just like poison ivy, but has rounder leaves with softer points, and sometimes has small white berries. It grows everywhere poison ivy grows. Poison sumac is shrubby with small white berries. It has small branches with 7-13 thin, sharp leaves, and mostly thrives in swampy or boggy areas.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560