Poison Ivy – Nature’s Evil Henchman


Geocaching is a wonderful hobby, but for some of us, we find ourselves thrust into an epic battle of attrition with mother nature, who 9 out of 10 times will win the battle and the war. She is a dirty fighter that mother nature and with several weapons in her arsenal, many of us don’t stand a chance. One weapon of mass destruction that has plagued myself and other geocacher’s time and again is poison ivy – nature’s evil henchman.

Poison ivy and I have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, placing me in the doctors office more times than I care to admit. One could say, “Aren’t you sort of thick in the head to get it so many times?” and you would be right, however growing up in the backwoods of Maine, I had my fair share of opportunities to encounter the devilish little plant.

Poison ivy, for the uninitiated, is a poisonous North American plant that produces a substance called Urushiol, the key ingredient of my discontent. Poison Ivy is identified by it’s signature three leaf arrangement or, with what we have here in VA, a large vine with a shaggy haired appearance. Wikipedia tells me that the vine variety is the older meaner brother of the plant I encountered in Maine and I must avoid it at all cost.

Urushiol is transmitted from the plant to the skin and can take up to a week for symptoms to raise their ugly head. Symptoms include nasty blisters and severe itching that can make even the strongest man scream to the heavens for a wire brush and some alcohol. There has been more than one occasion where I contemplated the necessity of having skin, it can be that bad. Poison Ivy takes no prisoners. The Urushiol can be transmitted through your pets fur, handles of tools and even be effective years after the plant itself has died.

You may be thinking, “Alright Kurt, I have some poison ivy in the back yard and all this gas, why don’t I just burn the lot of it and be done?” To that I would say, “Think again”. Poison ivy would laugh at your shenanigans and then do some real damage. When burned, the toxin is carried in the smoke and when breathed, can cause a rash on the inside of the lungs. This.. you do not want.

So what is a Geocacher to do? Throw in the towel and let mother nature and her evil henchman have their way? Awe Heey’ell NO! But, we do have to be smart. Long sleeves, pant’s and wearing gloves when working are usually pretty good deterrents. It is wise to shower immediately when home and place your clothes in the wash – remember the oil can get onto just about everything. Theresa Zablotski Nevills posted some great advice on our Facebook Page about carrying baby wipes in your geocaching kit. It can never hurt to wipe down after you think you have come into contact. Other members proposed Technu, which I support, and poison ivy pills which I have never tried other than doctor prescribed Prednisone.

One of the best deterrents for poison ivy is identification and abstinence. If you know what to look for you can usually avoid the horrid plant and it’s cousins altogether. If it weren’t so hot I would geocache in a plastic bubble, just to be safe.

I’ve included some links below for identification of poisonous woodland evil-doers as well as some products that can help ease the pain and suffering from coming into contact with mother nature’s finest. If you have some age-old remedies or advice for our readers please write a comment below! Thanks, and happy caching.

Identification Links

Helpful Products
Burt’s Bee’s Poison Ivy Soap
Roundup Poison Ivy Killer
Scotts Ortho Business Grp Ortho Max Poison Ivy Killer

  1. Nighthawk700

    “The Urushiol can be transmitted through your pets fur, handles of tools and even be effective years after the plant itself has died.”

    As I (and unfortunately, my kids) discovered, it can be transmitted through clothes. I came home from one particularly nasty geocache (http://coord.info/GC1N10K). My kids gave me the usual welcome home hugs. Since they were young (5-7?) their hugs are usually on my legs. Over the next few days poison ivy rashes broke out on their arms, chests, and cheeks. And it lasted a long time. Two very sad little girls. After that episode, they always asked me if it was safe to hug me when I got home. :-/

  2. Robyn Broyles
    Robyn Broyles07-02-2012

    Is it amazing that I’ve never experienced or even identified poison ivy, despite being a geocacher in southeast Texas? Well, some people are immune, but I doubt that’s me, as I have sensitive skin. Anyuway, I’ll be more careful in the meantime, as I wouldn’t want to end my itch-free streak. The main bushwhacking hazard I encounter is thorns. So, so many thorns. We have a plethora of thornbush species, including thorn vines that like to grab your hair (mine’s long) and wild blackberry bushes, which have too short a season to be worth the thorns that are there year-round.

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