Poison Ivy and Hiking: What to do?

Hiking in the Black Hills can be enjoyable until you come across a patch of poison ivy. Poison ivy and Hiking coincide as it is the most familiar poisonous plant in the Black Hills. It is an allergenic plant which causes a reaction in most, but not all people. About 85% of the American population is allergic. Having a reaction to poison ivy may at first be scary, below are some preventative measures and ways to control the reaction if you come in contact with the plant.

In the Black Hills western poison ivy is the most prevalent plant, growing on a vine and commonly developing berries throughout the plant. These two characteristics can help identify this plant. The poison ivy’s oil can cause a rash to develop on the surface of the skin, and is most active in the summer months. Thus, making summer the peak season to contract a poison ivy rash; some tips to help avoid contracting a rash are listed below:

  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and closed toed shoes when hiking
  • Know how to identify the plant, a common slogan is: “Leaves of three, let them be.”
  • Know that the poison ivy oil may be on sticks, shrubs, and other areas, so be sure to avoid contact with other areas of the forest.

If you suspect to have come in contact with poison ivy be sure to wash the affected area immediately, and then bathe in warm water and wash with soap. Also, using rubbing alcohol, cleanse all clothing or objects that may have come in contact with the plan. It is most ideal to do this within 10-15 minutes; otherwise the oil from the plant may have the opportunity to seep into clothing or skin forming a rash. It can take anywhere from 1 to 48 hours for the rash to develop and symptoms to show. Common symptoms include: itching, swelling, the development of red spots or the formation of blisters.

Irritated skin may be soothed by over-the-counter topical ointments, oatmeal baths and cool compresses. If symptoms worsen, or if the rash develops on the face or genital area, it is important to seek medical attentionas soon as possible.