Summer 2020 now also features “bigger and nastier” poison ivy

Quarantine has made the great outdoors a nevermore needed escape from the confines of our homes. It’s the only place where we can go without a mask (but maintain six-feet!) and it seems like the only place where we can travel without facing a self-imposed quarantine after.

But nature is nature, which means it has some secret surprises up its sleeves. Earlier this year, the “Murder Hornet” made its a surprising ascent into the vernacular after a New York Times report broke the news it had made its way to the US.

Then came as many as 1.5 million cicadas poised to plague parts of the US after spending nearly two decades underground. Ticks, too, came into the equation due to a mild winter on the East Coast, causing concern for hikers, campers, and others just trying to breathe in some fresh air. Experts were worried because of symptoms of tick-borne illnesses and COVID-19 overlap.

But now, something else has come to harm us even closer to home: poison ivy.

A University of Georgia professor said poison ivy has become “significantly more poisonous” due to increased carbon dioxide levels, WYMT Mountain News reported.

“It’s a real double whammy. More abundant, bigger, and nastier,” said Dr. Jacqueline Mohan, a professor at the University of Georgia.

The plant ecologist told the outlet oils on poison ivy make it more poisonous and more allergenic to people. She said the increase in CO2 levels has been consistent over nearly a half-decade, which is not common.

”Every year the CO2 level goes up higher than it was the year before,” Mohan said.

In a Miracle-Gro study at Duke University, she said that poison ivy grew at a rate of 149% faster than in past decades. If that doesn’t scare you, tall trees — also know as canopy — grew at a rate of 25% faster.

That’s not welcoming news considering the outdoors seems to be the only escape with travel limited and everyday life still stalled due to the ongoing pandemic.

If you do encounter poison ivy, signs or symptoms of infection usually occur in a rash which includes the following signs, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Difficulty breathing

It’s the oil of the plant that can be transferred if it brushes against your skin. Typically, a rash appears within 12 to 48 hours of exposure and can last for as long as three weeks.

Poison ivy is commonly encountered by those who frequent forests or even while fishing as well. In addition, it is often seen in farming, landscaping, and gardening settings.

The Mayo Clinic suggests using these tips to prevent poison ivy rash:

Avoid the plants. Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac in all seasons. When hiking or engaging in other activities that might expose you to these plants, try to stay on cleared pathways. If camping, make sure you pitch your tent in an area free of these plants.
Keep pets from running through wooded areas so that urushiol doesn’t accidentally stick to their fur, which you then may touch.

Wear protective clothing. If needed, protect your skin by wearing socks, boots, pants, long sleeves and vinyl gloves.

Remove or kill the plants. In your yard, you can get rid of poison ivy by applying an herbicide or pulling it out of the ground, including the roots, while wearing heavy gloves. Afterward remove the gloves and thoroughly wash them and your hands. Don’t burn poison ivy or related plants because the urushiol can be carried by the smoke.

Wash your skin or your pet’s fur. Within 30 minutes after exposure, use soap and water to gently wash off the harmful resin from your skin. Scrub under your fingernails too. This helps prevent a rash. Even washing after an hour or so can help reduce the severity of the rash.
If you think your pet may be contaminated with urushiol, put on some long rubber gloves and give your pet a bath.