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GardenSMART :: Poison Ivy During Fall - What You Need To Know

Poison Ivy During Fall - What You Need To Know

By Dan Boelman, RN, BSN, Zanfel Laboratories
Photographs courtesy of Zanfel Laboratories

Poison ivy is one of the earliest plants to have its leaves turn colors in the fall. The leaves change from green to yellow, then to intense shades of orange, red, and even purple! You'll look out into the woods and everything will be green, except for brightly colored leaves on a poison ivy shrub or vine.

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Poison Ivy Leaves During Fall

Why is it that poison ivy leaves change color before most other plants? Poison ivy plants rely on birds to spread their seeds. When flocks of migratory birds are passing through an area, the bright poison ivy leaves are like a beacon drawing these birds in for a meal of poison ivy seeds. Poison ivy is a "dioecious" species, meaning individual plants are either male or female. Female poison ivy plants produce clusters of little white berries, which contain seeds. Male plants produce pollen, but don't have berries or seeds.

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Warbler eating poison ivy berries.

Fall Yard and Garden Clean Up

One important thing to remember is the leaves and other parts of poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants remain toxic for years after they have died. Be careful while raking leaves and doing fall yard cleanup in areas where poison ivy is nearby. Wearing long pants, long sleeves, and gloves is important. After poison ivy's leaves have fallen to the ground, poison ivy vines can be identified by the hairy looking aerial roots the vine uses to cling to the tree. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants are toxic all year round. You can get a miserable allergic skin reaction from exposure to a "dormant" poison ivy stem, vine, or root in the fall and winter.

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Eastern poison ivy

Keep Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Out Of Fires

If you dispose of dead leaves and other plant material this fall by burning them, be very careful to keep poison ivy, oak, and sumac out of the fire. The toxic oil in these plants, urushiol, is stable at high temperatures. The burned plant particles dispersed in the smoke are both allergenic and an irritant. Wherever this dangerous smoke contacts your skin, you'll get a severe reaction. There is at least one case where a person has died from respiratory distress after inhaling the smoke of burning poison ivy. So keep poison ivy out of the bonfire – for your safety and the safety of everyone in your neighborhood!

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Western poison ivy

Rash Prevention and Treatment With Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Wash

Unless you wash with regular soap and water within 15 minutes of exposure, the toxic oil from poison ivy, oak, and sumac absorbs down into the layers of your skin, and stays bonded in your skin for a few weeks.

Zanfel is the only product clinically shown to remove the poison ivy, oak, and sumac plant's oil, urushiol, from the skin anytime after outbreak of the rash. Once the poison ivy oil has been removed from your skin during a Zanfel washing, itching stops, and your body is in a position to immediately begin healing the rash. For severe cases, Zanfel can be used in conjunction with prescription treatments like steroids. Zanfel can also be used as a post-exposure preventative. Zanfel is an OTC product that can be found at most pharmacies. For more information please visit www.zanfel.com.

 


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