Don’t Let Poison Ivy Wreck Your Nature Walk!

The summer is a great time to investigate nature, whether you choose to pursue a formal study, simply revel in the wonders of your backyard garden, or take to the local hiking trails!  Plants will have all their leaves  and many will have their flowers in bloom or even fruits, making identification much easier.Don't let poison ivy wreck your nature walk!  Here's how on The Homeschool Post.

But before you head into those deep woods on a nature walk, or even dive into the jungle of your backyard (that’s only a partial exaggeration—you haven’t seen my lilac bushes), teach your kids about poisonous plants to avoid so you don’t come home with any nasty surprises.

New poison ivy and oak plants can crop up overnight!  Birds love the berries, so they gobble them up, but they don’t digest the seeds.  By the time the seeds make it all the way through a bird’s digestive track, it could be miles away from the original plant.  That path that you’ve been down a hundred times before could now have poison ivy vines creeping alongside.


poison ivy cluster rash

I had a sudden rash last week that looked suspiciously like a poison ivy rash.  It turns out that when I did a quick bit of gardening (translation:  trying to annihilate the invasive mint that was growing into the path.  The previous owners apparently liked mint.  Alot.), I apparently grabbed hold of a poison ivy plant that was hiding there.  Since I didn’t know it until a couple of days later, I didn’t take the usual precautions I would normally take to remove the plant’s oils.

single blisters

Over the next several days, I had rashes appearing on various parts of my body caused by my body having an allergic reaction to the urushiol oil found in poison ivy.  The same oil is also found in poison oak and poison sumac.  About 85% to 90% of people in the US are allergic to urushoil to varying degrees.  Some will get a light rash and others can have a severe reaction.


large poison ivy rash

Upon contact, the oil starts absorbing into your skin almost immediately.  If you are able to wash within 10 minutes or so, you stand a chance of avoiding a reaction or at least lessening it.  The first rash might appear in a day or two.  Subsequent rashes can appear over several days. Even though it has been over a week since my first exposure, I am still occasionally finding a tiny cluster rash here and there (that top pic is the most recent), even though I’ve washed any items in my house that may have been contaminated.

The difference in timing and severity of each rash has to do with:

  • the concentration of oil
  • sensitivity of your skin in that area
  • whether or not you’ve had a reaction before (a previous reaction makes you more sensitive)

Poison ivy grows in nearly every state in the United States, except California, Hawaii, and Alaska.  Poison oak is found in the southeast and on west coast (yes, California, you need to watch out, too).  And poison sumac is found in boggy areas  in the south and along the Mississippi. See of map of their distribution here.

Judging from my own experience, I really need to educate my kids on how to avoid plants that could harm them when we are out on our nature walks.

3 ways to avoid poisonous rashes on your nature study:

1.  Leaves of three?  Leave it be!

Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, or at least the plants that are likely to be found in your area.  There are different varieties!   Leaf color, flower color, and berry color can vary a good bit.  Their leaves change color in different seasons.  Both the ivy and oak can be either bushes or even thick hairy vines.

But in the summer, you will be able to see their leaves—both poison ivy and poison oak have clusters of 3 leaflets.  Poison sumac has several leaflets per stem.  The University of Florida Extension office has a helpful 6 page pdf for identifying poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac here.

Wiki-How has a step-by-step for identifying poison ivy here.  More photos of plants are here.

Talk to your kids about avoiding plants with clusters of 3 leaves.   Here’s a coloring page so they can become familiar with what poison ivy looks like.

If your children are very young, you may want to have them ask you before touching any plants they encounter, just to be on the safe side.

2. Keep your hands away from your face.

Avoid touching your face or other parts of your body with your hands if you’ve been touching anything outside and ask your kids to do the same.  The rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac is not contagious, but the urushiol oil that causes it can be transferred from skin to skin, from clothing to skin, from tools to skin, etc.  It’s a good idea to avoid, say…rubbing your eyes…in case you’ve unknowingly come in contact.

3.  Wash up thoroughly!

When you get home, have everyone very carefully wash their hands with a de-greasing soap (like dishwashing liquid), including under their nails.  If you’ve been exploring the woods, you’ll want to remove and wash your clothes and possibly your shoes.  Trace amounts of urushoil can get on your skin from your clothes and cause rashes in all kinds of places.

Ohio State University Extension has a pdf aimed at horticulturalists on avoiding these poisonous plants and the proper treatment to use if you should accidentally encounter one here.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital has an article on what to do if you suspect your child has been exposed to one of these plants.  It’s downloadable as a pdf and includes line drawings of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac your kids can color.

Note:  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on this blog.  The information I’ve included in this post came from various resources on the web, including those linked within.  If you happen to go on a random Google search of poison ivy cures or images, it seems everybody wants to post their scary looking rash—make sure your 5-year-old isn’t looking over your shoulder.

Please take any advice you find on home cures with a grain of salt—everybody is different and some that I’ve seen may actually hinder you healing by causing additional irritation.  If you or your child has a serious rash, please consult your doctor.

Do your kids know how to identify poison ivy?

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Susan Anadale (6 Posts)

Susan is a wife, a mother, a Catholic, a teacher, a writer, a philosopher, a seamstress, a maker of things, an imaginer of worlds...I blog about our lifelong journey through learning at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds (my brain on the web).

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Good Stewardship of God’s Creation: Christians and Sustainability

The following was originally posted on my blog, North Laurel Home & School, on February 16, 2011. 

Recently, I’ve become more interested in living ‘greener’. ‘Living green’ is an almost too used phrase to describe living in a way that is healthier for first ourselves but secondly for the environment. Perhaps ‘sustainable living’ is more appropriate. But as Christians should the second part of living green, or sustainability, concern us?

I believe this is a controversial topic. There are those who feel that because God will create a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17) that we do not need to worry about this earth, now. Granted that does not mean that we should litter {that is against the law of man and therefore is wrong to start with}, nor does it mean that we should purposely pollute or trash our world.

But do we need to change our lives to be able to care for the environment- even though God will cleanse it according to His Will?

Because of the first part of sustainability, I believe that yes, we do need to change our lives. God commands for us to treat our bodies as a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)- to care for it and keep it well {as best as we can}. Living ‘green’ helps in this. As a secondary benefit, it also cares for the environment- and others who inhabit this planet as well. I believe it is a Christian’s duty to live a life that is ‘green’ because it helps to keep God’s commandments of taking care of our bodies, for Him, as well as caring for others. We wouldn’t go out of our way to pour chemicals on a neighbor’s yard, or in their water supply.

Why would we use such things in our houses or everyday living that will in effect do just that?

When we use chemicals {to kill weeds, bugs, whiten our clothes, etc} they seep into the water supply. The water ends up on our neighbors lawn and/or in their water supply that they ingest. And not just our neighbors. The water on this planet is recycled constantly. The process allows water from New York City, New York, to fall in Nigeria, Africa. The water from Australia can make it to Anchorage, Alaska. And the chemicals that are used in those locations go with the rain. The water is filtered in a sense- but not thoroughly- and the residual chemicals are dropped onto our ‘neighbors’.

Or how about plastic? Plastic never goes away! Never. It is a man-made product revered for its long life. However, it is causing serious problems with the earth and the inhabitants. I don’t just mean animals {although the first problem can be seen readily when looking at the animals- you can google for images}. Plastic is in our water and our food- in our bodies. There are food-grade plastics that are ‘safe’ for us. But really, plastic is not safe.

So that leads to the question: What do we do and does it really matter?

I didn’t write this post to scare anyone into changing how they do things, but to get us thinking about what we use and how we use it. I believe that we are stewards of the body we have {and for our children’s bodies because to a certain point we are in control of a lot that has to do with their bodies and person} as well of the earth, even if it’s just the small little bit we have ownership of, our house and the yard it sits on.

What do you think?

North Laurel (14 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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Fantastic Foto Field Trips : November Link Up 2013

Homeschool Post : Fantastic Foto Field Trip Linkup Button

Have you braved the cold to field trip with your kids this month? Any holiday learning experiences on the go?

These are Smoky Mountain trees in TN. Such a lovely place. #fall #America #TN #leaves

Where have you been lately? What have you seen?

Your field trip ideas inspire us. Join us here each month (the last Friday of each month) to link up your field trips. Our readers showcase their field trip links, linking recent trips or not-so-recent trips here on our linky tool below. It doesn’t matter how old your link is, but please only post the link to a particular field trip once. Wherever you are going – inquiring homeschool minds want to hear about it (and see pretty pictures!)…


>Rules for linking up:

1. Your Fantastic Foto Fieldtrips post must be about a field trip and must contain photos.

2. There is no date limit on when you posted the article on your blog (ancient stuff from 2005 is acceptable).

3. You can include as many links as you want each month — the more the merrier (wow us!).

4. Do not link back to your main blog page — just the url from the actual field trip post and a title of where it was would be great: example — Sprittibee/Hiking

5. Be sure to use the graphic for the meme either in your post or sidebar (or both)

Feel free to browse back through our older Fantastic Foto Fieldtrip posts to find great links and fun picture posts.

Just click on the field trips category on our sidebar and scroll away! We can’t wait to join you on your your adventures.


Sprittibee (287 Posts)

Founder of the Homeschool Post | Homeschool enthusiast with two high school teens and two preschooling tots in the Austin, Texas area. Heather has been homeschooling over 11 years and blogging over 8 years. You can also find her - be it a little less formal - at her personal blog,

***See the Light Christmas special for HOMESCHOOL POST readers: 25% off BIBLE STORIES 5 DVD Boxed set + FREE SHIPPING. Over 17 hours of content including 15 stories and 15 complete step-by-step art lessons. Code to use: HSP
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