Grit Blogs > Arrows and Minnows

Poison Ivy Rash a Familiar Occurrence

By Caleb Regan, Managing Editor


Tags: plants, ivy, poison oak, poison ivy, allergies,

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganA sure sign of summer is the first poison ivy rash of the year. I hate it. I’m convinced that the slightest encounter with the plant will result in me contracting a rash from it. I’m convinced the wind takes over sometimes and blows the oil from the plant onto my skin. I know others feel the same.

Editor-in-Chief Hank Will told me his dad was so allergic to the oils in the plant that if he drove by it with his arm out the window of his truck, he'd get it. The stuff can fly.

I’ve had the allergy since I as a boy, so I’m pretty adept at identification – I say that, yet I seem to get it every spring while mushroom hunting and every late summer moving around deer stands. When in the woods, I try my best to keep my eyes peeled and do everything possible to avoid it, only to develop an itch and a rash days later.

It was Monday of last week – two days after we’d found the morel mushrooms at my mom’s – when I started to itch and experience the familiar symptoms. By Saturday, it was still lingering on my arms, but I felt like it was fading fast. I wasn’t scratching it in my sleep, and the rash was getting smaller.

Then Saturday afternoon I went for a hike, 2 ½ miles one way, back through the Clinton Lake trails to get to a fishing hole. The trail is beautiful (I was after crappie, but if you want to fish in noncontiguous Lake Henry for trout, buy a trout permit before you go).

Clinton Lake nature trails

As you can see in the pictures, the trail is pretty clear, so I shouldn’t have been brushing up against poison ivy while walking on the trail. However, I was hunting morels and probably wasn’t as attentive to green foliage as I should have been the entire time. So, as I type this, the poison ivy rash on my right forearm is oozing, which means it may spread. Back to square one.

Leaves of three, let it beStill, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was great to get out in the woods for a long hike, feel the spring air, work up a sweat, stop to fish and reluctantly hike back to the paved world.

For identification purposes, as the saying goes, “Leaves of three, let it be.”

And no, I caught no crappie, just a perch and a rash. But it was still fulfilling.

Clinton Lake

Is there anything that makes you dread spring and summer, and, more importantly, how do you overcome or subdue those things in order to get out and do the things you love to do?


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

nebraska dave
4/30/2009 8:27:27 AM

Caleb, I have yet to encounter the nasty sting of poison ivy. I owned a house in the St. Louis area when I discovered this viney looking plant climbing one of my backyard trees. Being a new home owner filled with ambition to spruce up the yard, I decided to clean the vine off the tree. I set about the task with vigor and wild abandon chopping, pulling, digging, and piling up the vine to burn. Back in those days one could pile stuff on the curb and burn it. My neighbor kept looking at me rather weirdly until he just couldn't take it any longer and strolled over to have a talk. He stood a good distance away and said, “Aaaa, you do know that is poison ivy don't you?” Well, I didn't know and by then I was almost finished with the removal, so I figured it was too late to worry about being infected. I finished the job but decided to haul the vine to the dump and not burn it. Turns out that was a good decision because later I heard that the vine smoke would have carried the oil and those that breathed it in could have contracted a rash inside their airway. After a couple days and no rash, I thought, “Yippie I’m home free without any ill effects. Then comes Friday……….laundry day. My wife picks up the laundry and takes it to the laundry room and washes the clothes. Next day she’s all broken out from poison ivy. All over her arms and face. She comes to me and says, “I can't figure out where I would have come in contact with poison ivy.” To which my response was, “Aaaaa, well, honey, sweetheart, (eyes looking up to ceiling while scuffing foot on the floor), there’s something I should tell you about.” I did redeem myself by doing the wash for the next few weeks. I’m really not too much of a woodsman and haven't really tempted fate lately with poison ivy........that I know of.


cindy murphy
4/29/2009 2:29:08 PM

Hi, Caleb. No wonder you're willing to risk catching poison ivy - that trail through the woods is gorgeous! As much time as I spend outdoors in the woods, I've never had the itch or rash of poison ivy. It's even in my yard, and I've (very carefully) pulled it, and when that didn't work, chopped it back, poisoned it, cursed at it, and stuck my tongue out at it - and still no rash. They say the more you are exposed to it, the more likely you are to break out with a case of it, so I'm just waiting for the day my luck runs dry. My boss is like you - she swears she can look at poison ivy, and the rash turns up immediately. A trick of hers to relieve the itch is (as bizarre as it sounds) Sure antiperspirant in stick form, (not deordorant, and not the gel kind). She's so convinced of its effectiveness she keeps a stick in the medicine cabinet at work for emergencies, and has recommended it to our customers. The thing I dislike about summer is the sun...well, not the sun actually, but its effects. Working outside all day, I melt in the humidity here, and have gotten dehydrated more than a few times. Then I had a scare a few years ago, when my doctor told me a few of the moles and freckles I have looked "suspicious". I now make sure to drink plenty of water - much more than I think I need. I religously apply sunscreen with the highest SPF rating I can find, and go for a skin cancer screening every year. One day, I will break down and wear a hat...if I can find one that will stay on my head. Pfft. They don't make hats for people with a lot of hair, it seems. But I love my job; love being outdoors, and I'd never trade the opportunity to do either. Oh - and there's more to the "leaves of three" saying: Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive. Virginia creeper, with five leaves, is often mistaken for poison ivy. Hope it's five leaves, instead of three, that you come