Poison Ivy: A Primer for Prevention — Outdoor Hazards and Preventive Measures

by Heidi Ratner-Connolly
Camp staff, through sheer goodwill and the love of kids, manage to make it through entire summers of homesickness, bed-shorting, kitchen raiding . . . yes, and poison ivy! Many seasons of suffering from poison ivy as a camper in Maine, with the resultant fear of repeating the torture, two children with a high sensitivity to it, and a husband who almost died from inhaling its smoke, have all contributed to my developed ability for staying poison ivy free and for helping others do the same.

What Would You Do to Prevent Poison Ivy?

As camp experts, you are very familiar with this ghoulish greenery and already know the basics about how to deal with its effects. But when it comes to poison ivy, it is a jungle out there, and the more you know, the better. Take the “Poison Ivy Prevention” Quiz on page 19 to test your knowledge. Unfortunately, poison ivy is nearly impossible to get rid of, because it doesn’t glow neon like our campers’ sweatshirts to let you know where it is so you can avoid it. The more time we spend outdoors, the more chance we have to get it from or give it to someone we’re with.

Education is the Solution

How do you ensure your campers, counselors, and the rest of your camp staff are well informed about poison ivy? This really is a case in which education is the only helpful solution — half the battle toward a poison-ivy free summer is to provide enough information to your staff. If they are fully versed in poison ivy facts, they will be able to avoid it themselves and help the campers avoid it also. Hang up charts with photos and have warning signs prominently placed. The more reminders, the more aware your staff will be.

Prevent It, Treat It, and Get Rid of It — Once and for All!

The amount of poison ivy oil that would fit on the head of a pin can infect more than 500 people. Only one nanogram — a billionth of a gram — of oil is needed to cause a rash. Armed with this information, it’s important that everyone knows how to stop poison ivy from spreading — before it starts! If your camp’s location is typically woodsy — if you have campfires, hikes, adventure trails, and all the other expected great outdoor activities, you may never be able to prevent everyone from getting poison ivy — but every bit of information helps to ensure a more pleasant summer for your campers and staff.

The "Poison Ivy Prevention" Quiz

Poison Ivy Identification, Treatment, and Complications


Heidi Ratner-Connolly writes and edits for 2Lakes Publishing, which she co-owns with her husband, Randy Connolly. She is the author of the book, Poison Ivy: It’s A Jungle Out There. She can be contacted by e-mail at heidi@10thingstoknow.biz. You can also visit the Web site, www.10thingstoknow.biz.


Originally published in the 2003 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.