Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Poison ivy thriving this summer

June 28, 2000

It's that time of year again time for picnics, walks in the country and leisurely days spent outdoors.

And it's also time for poison ivy.

Marked by a line of blistery bumps, poison ivy causes intense itching on the skin and can even affect the eyes. But wherever it hits, the entire ordeal is miserable.

This description fits symptoms produced by poison ivy and poison oak or sumac. With summer kicking off, cases of ivy dermatitis are on the increase. Tonganoxie's Dr. Philip Stevens said he's treated about 50 percent more cases of poison ivy this year than last. Stevens said that during the course of a summer he usually treats about 100 patients for this. But this isn't a problem confined to summer, Stevens said.

"Strangely enough, you can also see cases of ivy dermatitis in the winter," he said.

Sy Nyhart, Leavenworth County agricultural extension agent, said more poison ivy has cropped up in the county than he has seen in a long time.

Although the skin irritation created from contact with poison ivy is classified the same as poison oak and sumac, Nyhart said poison oak normally doesn't grow in this part of the country. Poison ivy is predominantly the plant that leads to the skin irritation in this area.

Beth Loudabarger, a registered nurse for PromptCare in Lawrence, agreed.

"It was not cold enough this winter to kill the plant off, which is creating a lot more cases than normal," she said.

Loudabarger said that PromptCare treats a minimum of four cases a week and, many times, more cases than that.

Dr. Debra Gammill, who practices in Tonganoxie, said she treats 10 or more cases in a week. She started treating earlier this year than normal. If the case is not severe, Gammill directs her patients to purchase over-the-counter products. In more severe cases she prescribes stronger anti-itch medications or something with a steroid in it.

Gamill said she has treated one man who has had complications from poison ivy three or four times this year.

Anyone working in their own yards, gardening or just feeling outdoorsy should be aware of what the plant looks like so it may be sprayed to kill the plant or so that contact with the plant is prevented.

A lot of times, the growth of poison ivy sprouts by birds carrying its seeds. Nyhart said for some reason that birds like the seed and drop pieces of it.

A poison ivy plant always has three leaves clustered together. Some have big notches on the outside of the side leaves. The middle leaf has a notch towards the top of the leaf.

However, some poison ivy plants don't have the notches. Sometimes, the stem between the leaves is a shade of red.

Poison ivy can grow in the form of a vine close to trees, along fence lines, in flowerbeds, bushes, and can grow on the ground around the roots of a tree.

Most ivy (contact) dermatitis cases break out about 24 hours after exposure to the plant.

However, some rashes may appear up to three days or three weeks after. The majority of cases last about two weeks, but some do last longer, Stevens said.

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