Getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoying the great outdoors is one of the main reasons people go camping. But before you go out hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, or just for a walk, make sure you are protected from the harmful things that live or grow in and around the area your camping in. One major thing that grows in the forest are poisonous plants, and you need to know what to avoid. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Stinging Nettles are 4 plants you need to AVOID when walking in the woods. With a little bit of information, you’ll be able to watch for these plants and know what to do if you come in contact with them.
Poison Ivy is found throughout North America and is usually east of the Rocky Mountains. These plants like to grow in wooded areas and like to grow on exposed rocks, in open fields, as ground cover, as vines, or as underbrush. This plant rarely grows above 5,000 feet. Poison Ivy can be identified by the following characteristics: a shrub or vine that has clusters of three almond shape leaflets, reddish hairs on the vine and no thorns. It can grow as tall as four feet but is frequently found as ground cover between 4-10 inches high. If you do come in contact with Poison Ivy, it will cause itching, red inflammations and possibly blistering. Over-the-counter medicines like Calamine Lotion and home remedies (oatmeal baths, baking soda) will help to relieve the irritation.
Poison Oak can be found from New Jersey to Florida, in the Western US, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. These plants like sandy soils and typically grow in thickets, forests, and dry, sandy fields. Poison Oak can be identified by the following characteristics: has 3 to 5 lobed leaves that usually have a scalloped edge. It bears a fuzzy fruit on the branches and the leaves can be wrinkled. Poison Oak and Poison Ivy have similar symptoms and treatments. Symptoms include itching, red inflammation and blistering. Treatments include over-the-counter lotions (Calamine Lotion), oatmeal baths and baking soda.
Poison Sumac is the least common of the three but is the most toxic. These plants are found in wet areas such as swamps, bogs, and flooded areas in the eastern US and Canada. Poison Sumac can be identified by the following characteristics: a small tree or shrub with bluish-green leaves that are oblong in shape with highly visible red veins and usually 7-13 leaves per stem. There are also grey or cream-colored fruit berries on the bush. If you come in contact with this plant it will cause a more lengthy and painful skin eruptions and irritations. Wash off your skin within 15 minutes of contact with warm soapy water. This washes the Urushiol oils off (this oil will bond with your skin after 15 minutes, so immediately wash your skin). Then use Cortical Cream in the infected areas.
Stinging Nettles are not really poisonous but it SHOULD be AVOIDED! It grows just about anywhere. This plant has fine hairs on the leaves and stems, and contains irritating chemicals which are released when the plant comes in contact with the skin, causing IMMEDIATE irritation. It stings your skin like crazy and causes blisters. Once you’ve been stung by Stinging Nettles, wash your hands, the affected areas and then your hands again. Then apply Calamine Lotion or another over-the-counter itch reliever. Just remember to not scratch the infected areas.
When in doubt, just don’t touch! If you have questions about plants in your area, get a hold of your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
This information was found at the following sources:
“Avoid These Toxic Plants On Your Camping Trip” at www.campingtripguide.com
“Plants to Avoid” at hiking-and-camping.com
“Poisonous Plants” at romanticcamping.com
“Poisonous Plants” at gocampingamerica.com