Don’t Grab the Hairy Rope!

While it’s winter here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, you may not realize that you can get poison ivy even in freezing temperatures or when there’s snow on the ground.  You might be clearing some land, or gathering wood for a fire when you come across a furry vine. Those furry vines wrapped on many trees are POISON IVY vines!

We learned as kids to look out for the famous mitten-shaped leaves in groups of three, but poison Ivy is also found as hairy vines coiling around trees. Mature vines take on that hairy appearance because they are covered in aerial roots, and every part of the plant, whether actively growing, dormant, or dead contains urushiol (the chemical that causes the poison Ivy rash). The vines may be hard to see because sometimes they can cling so tightly to the trunk of a tree they appear a part of it.

Unlike other weeds that die off over the winter, the urushiol in poison Ivy remains active even in February.  The toxin gets on anything it touches – clothes, tools, gloves, boots –  and it sets up in the skin within 15 minutes of making contact.   It’s not uncommon to see people with poison ivy come into our Fairfield County dermatology offices in winter.

So don’t let your caution down about poison ivy just because it’s cold outside.  You CAN get poison ivy from working with the vine in winter AND you can get it in your lungs if you burn it and breathe the smoke –which could put you in the hospital.

So in summer, remember, “Groups of three, let it be” but also don’t forget “Don’t be a dope, don’t touch the hairy rope!”

If you get poison ivy and it doesn’t go away within a few days, you may want to visit a physician.  At Advanced Dermatology Care, our dermatologists Dr. Kenneth Egan, Dr. Rebecca Hall, and PA, Melissa Raue specialize in all of your family’s skincare needs in general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology including impetigo, acne, skin cancer, eczema, warts, moles, fungal nail infections, rashes and scars. Our offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, Norwalk, and Ridgefield.


– Melissa Raue PA-C

Topics: Blog, Dermatology