Poison ivy is poised to take full advantage of climate change. With warmer temperatures and rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists say poison ivy grows faster, its leaves get bigger and its toxic oil becomes even more virulent.
That oil — called urushiol — triggers an allergic reaction in roughly 80% to 85% of people. However, the severity of the reaction varies, sending some people to the emergency room, while others suffer only a mild, itchy rash.
“The same exposure in two different people will cause a very different set of symptoms and rashes,” said Louis Kuchnir, a dermatologist in the suburbs west of Boston who treats poison ivy regularly.
The best approach to prevent a reaction, he said, is to identify the plant and avoid it. Unfortunately, poison ivy can be surprisingly tricky to spot.
Here is a quiz to test your knowledge of poison ivy’s telltale features. Let's see how well you’re able to steer clear!
(Can't see the quiz above? Click here to play!)