Poison ivy leaves its mark here

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June 29, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Local officials are advising Allen County residents to keep an eye out for and stay away from poison ivy, the perennial wild weed that is abundant throughout Kansas.
Dr. Brian Wolfe at The Family Physicians says he’s seeing more cases of poison ivy exposure this year than in the past.
“It must be a good year for poison ivy,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of people coming in with this stuff. I probably see somebody about every day.”
The best thing to do when it comes to the plant that causes itching and rashes amongst two-thirds of the human population, Wolfe warned, is to simply to avoid it. But if unavoidable, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to reduce the chance of direct contact. People susceptible to poison ivy reactions should not attempt to move the plant from backyards or gardens and should have someone else do the labor. To prevent the spread of poison ivy, don’t use a weed eater or power mower to remove it as sap and sap covered plants can become airborne and drift and descend onto people in the area.
Chuck Otte, K-State Research and Extension and Geary County Extension Agent, an expert on poison ivy, acknowledged there could be more poison ivy in the area this year but insists the weather patterns have little to do with that. Rather an increase in doctor visits as a result of poison ivy could be chalked up to more people being outdoors, he said.
“We periodically see increases in poison ivy cases and I’ve never been able to pin it down specifically to the weather,” he said. “I really suspect that when we have nice weather early in the season a lot of people get active outside and then they come in contact with it. It’s more of a reflection of people’s activities than it is plants growing better or worse.”
Whether there is more of it or not, said Mike Hough, Allen County Public Works noxious weed director, poison ivy can’t be combatted by the local government because it hasn’t been declared a noxious weed by the state legislature.
And even if the government could help fight the presence of poison ivy, it would probably be a futile effort.
“The plant is a survivor,” Otte said referring to its resilience. “In the 1993 flood, I saw areas around Milford Lake that had been underwater for nearly three months and in early September when the water finally went down, poison ivy vines leaved out and started growing without any problem at all.”
The poison ivy survived three months of inundation, he added.
For more information about how to prevent adverse poison ivy reactions, visit http://gearycountyextension.com/NRMW.htm.

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