How to look out (and treat) poison ivy this summer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - With summer well underway, the Erie County Parks Department is warning people to be on the lookout for poison ivy when they're spending time outside.

How to identify poison ivy:

"Leaves of three, let it be." The plant will have three pointy leaves. Two will shoot from the side of the stem and the third from the top. It can grow as a shrub or a vine. At this time of year, the leaves will be coated in a waxy substance giving it a shiny look.

Here's a photo posted by the Erie County Parks Department showing poison ivy:

What to do if you touch poison ivy:

There is a 10-to-15 minute window after coming in contact with poison ivy before it is fully absorbed through the skin, according to Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.

"Because then it seeps into your skin and causes a severe allergic reaction," she explained "So, if you think you've come in contact with poison ivy, go somewhere where you can wash it off as soon as possible."

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy can appear within a few hours or days after contact. It causes a very itchy rash with red streaks or patches. The rash can eventually blister causing more pain and discomfort.

The rash usually clears up in one or two weeks, according to Dr. Burstein. She says most people are able to treat the reaction with over the counter steroid cream, calamine lotion or antihistamines. It can also be helpful to take cold baths or use cold compresses on the affected area.

If the rash is particularly severe or gets worse, you should contact your doctor.

How to get rid of poison ivy in your yard:

It's important to avoid burning the plant if you find it in your yard. According to the Erie County Health Department, the residue that causes allergic reactions can lead to even more severe issues if it is inhaled, which can happen as a result of burning the plant.

The best approach is to wear thick gloves, long sleeves, pants and boots. The goal is to cover any skin. Then proceed to remove it like any other weed, ideally down to the root. For an added layer of protection, you can use plastic bags over the gloves to actually touch the plant.

If your municipality allows, you can dispose of poison ivy like other lawn clippings. Otherwise, you should find a spot on your property to bury it.

Afterwards, remember to wash all clothes, tools and equipment that came in contact with the plant. It's also important to wash your body.

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