Recently, while monitoring blog comments, I stumbled across an
interesting two-part question that was submitted to one of our most
6 Ways to Get Poison Ivy or Oak Without Touching the Plant. The
reader asks, "Are young children more immune to poison ivy and do
you have to be particularly sensitive to get a rash second or third
hand?" Both equally great questions we are happy to answer!
Let's start with whether or not there is a correlation between
age and poison ivy. To our knowledge, age is not a factor when it
comes to a person's sensitivity to urushiol (the rash-causing oil
found in poison oak, ivy, and sumac). According to our research,
approximately 85% of the population is allergic to urushiol.
Strangely, some individuals start off with a sensitivity to the
plants, while others slowly develop a sensitivity over time with
increased exposure. You may find that you can go out and roll
around in a patch of poison ivy (we DO NOT recommend doing so)
without repercussion now; but, there is a possibility that 5, 10,
even 15 years down the road, you could develop an allergy and may
no longer be able to roll around willy-nilly in luscious greenery
when the mood strikes. It's one of the great physiological
mysteries of the human body; right up there with the phenomenon of
how some people can roll their tongues and others can't (some
argue, a genetic trait). You just tried it, didn't you?
Now, onto whether a person's sensitivity is a factor when it
comes to "second or third hand" contact, or as we call it,
secondary contamination. Whether a person is highly sensitive or
not, urushiol is a very strong, concentrated substance that does
not evaporate. Coming into secondary contact with urushiol can
often times have the same result as touching the plant itself.
Also, as we've mentioned in other posts, urushiol can last for
months, even YEARS on items such as clothing (think gloves and
shoes that aren't regularly laundered), tools, yard equipment,
fences, etc. Luckily, you can use Tecnu® to clean these
items! Learn how, here!
Keep the poison ivy questions coming (poison oak and poison
sumac too, remember, they all contain urushiol)!
Until next time,
Live life. Get outdoors.™