Poison ivy is widespread throughout the United States and Southern Canada, and particularly in the Washington area. It is a dangerous plant. Some people are more susceptible than others and it is believed no one is ever fully immune. If touched, it can make one absolutely miserable for several days. Rash and blisters form, accompanied by persistent painful itching. The greatest danger from poisoning is in the spring and summer, even though poisoning can occur in fall and winter.

All parts of the poison ivy plant are toxic, particularly the sap. A small amount of the toxic agent called "urushiol" can cause skin inflammation. The toxin is easily transferred from one object to another and by pets that run through poison ivy plants.

The best way to avoid poisoning is to learn to recognize and avoid poison ivy. It is also important to ge rid of it if you have it growing on your grounds.

It is a perennial plant that grows during the warm season. The leaves are always divided into three leaflets.There is an old saying, "Leaflets three, let it be." It may be a trailing vine that grows up fence posts, three trunks or the sides of buildings.

The leaves are usually dark green and shiny in the summer. During the summer it forms clusters of green berries which turn whitish in the fall. In the fall the leaves turn gloriously scarlet. Some people keep it around on their trees simply because of its fine fall color.

Two of the best chemicals for killing poison ivy, according to specialists, are Amitrole (sold under the trade names of Amino Triazole Weed Killer, and Weedazol), and Silvex (sold under the trade names of Kuron, Weedone Chickweed Killer, Weedone, and Silvex).

Amitrole will kill grasses as well as broad leaf plants and is used often for especially hard-to-kill perennial grasses. If used carefully and strictly according to directions of the label, it is not considered by the Northeastern Regional Pesticide Coordinators to be hazardous to the applicator or to the environment.

Silvex can be used for getting rid of poison ivy growing on the lawn. It will destroy the plant without harm to the grass if directions on the label are followed closely.

There is a way to kill poison ivy growing in a hedge or in a pachysandra bed, etc. without damage to the good plants. Mix some amitrole in a tin can and use a long handled small brush to paint it onto the leaves of the poison ivy. Paint at least a dozen leaves on each stem. Usually roots and all are killed. It isn't a quick death, but usually is certain.

Cures for poison ivy rashes are numerous but most do little good, according to specialists. The fact is, most of the rashes will go away naturally regardless of the medication used. Various lotions and creams will soothe the symptoms and maintain clean conditions around the infected skin areas, but don't actually cure the rash.

In several cases, treatment by a physician should be sought, they say.

It is possible that rash may be prevented if the skin is washed in 5 to 10 minutes after contact provided a strong laundry soap or detergent is used.