Thursday, May 14, 2009

For Your Safety

At the end of each school year, students must sit through testing. Iowa, California, etc.  Seniors are exempt from taking these, but because many classes have more than one grade taking them, the seniors are pretty much wasting time while everyone else is busy. Mac's AP Spanish teacher decided to put the kids to work. She thought it would be a great idea to have her students work on the school's landscaping while the other grades tested. 

Normally, I'm all for putting kids to work. If they have to be at school, they should be doing something productive rather than sitting in the auditorium and watching a movie. This particular day though, it would have been better if they'd stayed inside. The students were directed to pull weeds, and  almost every one of them came in contact with poison sumac. And they almost all broke out. Very. Badly. 

Do you know how to identify poisonous plants? Most people don't. Both of my boys are Eagle Scouts, and have gone on numerous camping trips, and yet they still didn't know. Abigail and I were on a walk the other day, and we discussed identifying these plants the entire time. By the end of the trail, she was able to identify every one. 

We'll start with Poison Sumac .  This plant is quite pretty, and doesn't look harmful at
 all! Except that it caused Mac to break out in blisters that ended up landing him in the Urgent Care office. Several of the students were given an injection, while the doctor Mac saw prescribed Methylprednisolone

Poison Sumac can look like a small plant, shrub, or tree. It usually has 9-13 alternating leaves and a red stem between the leaves. Every part of this plant is poisonous, including the bark of shrubs and trees. In the fall, the leaves turn brilliant hues from bright yellow to deep purple.


Next up is Poison Ivy. It grows as a low shrub, but can also be a climbing vine. It has three leaves that can be reddish and glossy, when they are very small. As the plant matures, the leaves are green and matte. 

As the "ivy" climbs trees you may notice "hairy" roots that are brown or red in appearance.  

Poison Oak is the last plant that we'll discuss. It looks exactly like a tiny oak tree, but has three leaves in a cluster. 

It's best to keep your distance from all three of these plants. The oil, Urushiol, on the plants is the culprit that makes you itch and break out in blisters. If you think you've come in contact with one of these, wash the affected area with cool water and antimicrobial soap. Warm and Hot water spread the oils! It's also important not to use a washcloth, and to shower rather than bathe.

Make sure that all clothing is washed. If the oils are not removed from your skin, you can pass the rash from one person to another. Last but not least, animals can carry the oils on their fur as well. If your dog or cat is hiking with you, make sure that they are bathed properly. One more note: Do NOT burn these plants as you can be affected by the smoke that the produce!


Danielle said...

Thank you Tracy! This is great info! I only could identify the ivy...We will be on the lookout!

~~Deby said...

Great informative post Tracy...kind of crazy that the teacher didn't know this, IMHO....???

Rachel said...

Tracy, thank you so much. I "thought" I could have easily identified all of these plants. But seeing your pics made me realize that I only actually recognize one of them. I will now be learning the other two. Already this year, Sean, Drew and I have had one of these 3 rashes and it was very unpleasant.

Persuaded said...

as a child, i always heard the saying "leaves of three, don't touch me!" to help us to remember which were the poisonous plants... but the poison sumac doesn't appear to follow that rule! thanks so much for this post. very timely too, considering the season.

shelia said...

thanks so much for sharing. i believe i have each of these lovely plants growing in my garden :0 for how to get rid of them! yikes :)

jAne said...

I fess up to absolute ignorance, until today. Thank you.

How terrible that so many students (even one is one too many though) had to go through this. I can't imagine!


Mrs. Rabe said...

I am so sensitive to these poisonous plants...great advise and thanks for including the photos - I wasn't sure about the sumac!

Terri said...

Thanks for sharing, Tracy. I'm sorry that your son had to go through this and hopefully, he is on the mend!

jAne said...

I did a google search on these plants and saw what they can do to a person. yIkES!!! Horrid. Poor Mac and the other students.


Kristy said...

Thank you so much for this post. I can't say as if I've ever learned about these plants and how to identify them, except about the three leaves and poisonous. Now, I'm a little more informed!

Leah S said...

Oddly enough, my dad, two sisters and myself do not react to poison oak. It grows quite a bit around my parents property, but in all the years of living and working there, I've never received an itchy spot. I'm guilty of picking some poison oak and rubbing it on myself when I was about 13, just to see if I would react. Nary a spot for me.

My mom and brother do react most horribly so. The rest of us had to be careful how we touch them, and to watch the dogs to make sure they didn't get too close to any poison oak.

When my mom was pregnant with me, my dad was chopping down some trees. He managed to contact poison oak, but nobody knew until my mom was washing his clothes. It managed to get on her belly and she spent a lot of time itching (me). :P

I have no idea if I react to poison ivy or poison sumac. If they all share the same oil, then I assume I don't react to the other two.

Anonymous said...

I have to say a big THANK YOU for this post!! I knew what poison sumac looked like, but not poison ivy (kind of ironic since my Dad had a very bad case of it when he was younger, yet he still managed to forget what it looked like!)...thanks to you, I spotted a TON of poison ivy spreading itself in one of our gardens-a garden that my younger siblings tend to play in a lot! I showed them all what it looks like, and my parents have put that garden under "quarantine" for now until we can get rid of it safely.

Thanks again!!! :)

sara said...

I hopped over to your blog from Anna's. Thank you for this post - because of you we now know that my husband's rash was from poison sumac in our backyard! I just love when people generously share information like this. Thank you again.

CappuccinoLife said...

In our area, there is a poison "something" that grows 5 leaves. I think it is ivy--it's not always 3 leaved. I kept getting into it and kept getting rashes because I kept thinking poison ivy only ever had 3 leaves.

I always get it second hand now, from my hubby's clothes. Either the kids or I will touch him, and then the urishiol gets on me. Always in the most awful spots, too.

I discovered this last time around that rubbing alcohol is *wonderful* for drying out the rash and reducing the time that the blisters hang around. that combined with massive doses of benadryl made this last round at least bearable.