POISON IVY 
Sometimes when visiting climbing areas in the United States, local climbers warn me of poison ivy in their area. These plants have always turned out to be small pathetic plants, not worthy of my attention or concern. These guys donít know real poison ivy. In Ontario, I have seen and walked through fields of the stuff growing 4 feet in height. The plants were so big even I, a connoisseur of the stuff, didnít recognize it as poison ivy. In Ontario we have the biggest and the best.

I once saw a family picnicking in the middle of a field of poison ivy. They were wearing shorts and seemed to be having a great time. I was about to go and warn them of the peril but realized that they were already hopelessly infected. Why not let them enjoy the rest of the day? Either way they would be in misery tomorrow. So I left them alone.

A friend, while burning Poison Ivy plants from an area where he wanted to develop a garden had to be hospitalized from breathing the fumes. He got it again a few months later after he began to work his garden. The plants had been removed but the poisonous oil was still in the soil.

One climber who I wonít name got it every where on his body, and I mean everywhere!

Unfortunately Poison Ivy grows where we climb, in open sunny areas, at the base and top of climbs and sometimes even on the cliff face. I wonder if the stuff on the cliff face is 500 years old? Perhaps the Guelph tree scientists should investigate this.

I get Poison Ivy many times each year. Last year I got it 7 times. Serious Ontario climbers canít avoid it. I consider myself somewhat of an expert in contacting this plant. If you havenít had Poison Ivy you are not a climber, do not call yourself a hard man or woman. Leave this page immediately or go out and get infected.

The oil from the plant also gets in your ropes and on your harness. Other people who climb with you will get it from touching your rope. You will be shunned and ostracized and will find it difficult to find partners.

Poison Ivy appears a few days after contact as a small very itchy outbreak on your skin. It spreads each day. Untreated, it will spread everywhere and you will go insane. You will be hospitalized in a psychiatric institution.

To hell with the environmentalists, this is one plant that could go extinct and not be missed This is war.

This plant has three leaves. Thatís all you need to know. Donít touch any plant with three leaves and you will be safe.

You will only get it if you touch the plant. Some people think that you can get it from being close to the plant. This is not true. I know this for a fact. I ran a test a few years ago using a few unsuspecting friends.

The poison from the plant is very concentrated. Even brushing against a plant will be enough to get it. If your bare skin doesnít touch the plant, the plant may touch your clothes. The oil from the plant will get in your clothes. You will be infected a few days later. You will continue to get it for months every time you wear those clothes. You will sink into unknown depths of depression and madness in about 4 weeks. Burn your clothes but do not breathe the fumes.

Your dog will run through the stuff and get it all over its fur. Don't touch your dog or any crag dog again.

Bathing spreads the oil. Do not bathe.

Phone in sick to work. Tell them that you have a communicable disease. Tell people who you donít like that it is contagious. They will go away.

Four in five people are susceptible. Once infected sensitivity seems to increase. Even those people who are initially immune, often become susceptible later after contacting the plant a few times.

You will scratch in your sleep at night and further spread it to the rest of your body. Your body will have a histamine like reaction and you will suffer breakouts on parts of your body that you didnít think made contact with the plant.

There is hope. I can save you. I have the answer.

Immediately after contacting the plant wash the area contacted with a strong soap. This is usually impractical for climbers. After an hour this tactic is too late and will not work. This tactic never worked for me but some climbers swear by it.

Some people use calamine lotion to reduce itching and through an act of will refrain from scratching for about 2 weeks. Not me. I have a supply of cortisone cream (.1%) on hand that I bought in the United States. It is available over the counter tin the US but requires a prescription in Canada. There are risks to using too much of this stuff. Be conservative in using it. Cortisone cream gets rid of Poison Ivy in about 3 or 4 days. The cortisone cream that is available over the counter in Canada is not strong enough.

In addition, some people use a anti-histamine medication that is designed to reduce itching such as Benadryl. This is a good idea to combat the histamine that your immune system has erroneously poured into the area. I usually donít bother with topical creams to reduce itchiness since I am a hard man and am tough enough to endure a little discomfort.

If the reaction gets out of control, better go to your doctor. Once my forearm swelled up about 1/2 inch for the length of the forearm. I had slipped on a wet log and fell right into a patch in prime season. I endured for a week with home remedies but got no-where. My doctor put me on Cortisone pills which did the trick.

Bob Bennell
May 17, 2000

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