Field Guide to Poison Ivy
Preface to the Tenth Anniversary Field Guide Edition
This book was first published in 1996. Its title then was Nature’s Revenge. After several printings, it was changed to Outwitting Poison Ivy, to put it on the shelf with Lyons Press other Outwitting books. Now it has a third life as a field guide, for that is how the book is most often used.
Not much has happened in the world of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac in the last ten years. Eighty-five percent of the population is still allergic to it; the itch is still infuriating; prevention remains the best medicine, including the prophylactic washing of exposed skin with rubbing alcohol (see Chapter 4). Treatment has not changed: home and over-the-counter remedies for mild cases, prescription corticosteroids for serious cases. The criteria for seeking medical help remain the same: rash on the face or over large areas of the body; rash on sensitive areas, such as the genitals; and inhalation of smoke from burning poison ivy or oak.
The good news also remains the same: the rash caused by the oil urushiol is not fatal, and is usually not disfiguring. Even inhalation of urushiol-laden smoke can be successfully treated with immediate medical attention if there are no related pre-existing conditions.
In May of 2006, poison ivy made headlines, perhaps for the first time. A six-year field study * indicates that poison ivy loves global warming. In such a high carbon dioxide environment, it grows larger and more densely, impinging on other plant populations. In addition, the urushiol it produces is more virulent than that currently produced by plants in our forests and backyards.
Even with that news, the instructions do not change: learn to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac; learn how to prevent a rash even after exposure; learn how to treat a rash once it has occurred. That information is in this book. I hope it will help you to enjoy, without penalty, our wondrous outside world.