Poison ivy can be a real nuisance, mostly because many people do not know how to identify it or treat the rash they receive from it. Though it can climb up tree trunks and other high things, it is not actually ivy. This can be a source of great confusion. It is actually on a woody stem and often grows low to the ground. If you touch it with any part of your body, even for just a split second, you will probably receive a nasty itching rash, though some people experience no effect from it. This is not the type of plant you would want to test out, however.
It grows in Canada, the United States, and Mexico and is almost unheard of anywhere more to the south or east. The woods are the most usual local for the plant, especially near the edges of forests where sunlight is more prominent. That said, do not be surprised to see it in meadows, on lawns, or even in rocky terrain. It really grows almost anywhere which is why it is so tricky. Any amount of sunlight and water in the soil is good enough for the plant.
You should learn to recognize this plant if you intend on spending any time outside. It looks completely innocuous, so you may never know you are standing right in it. The leaves are really three leaflets in a bunch. They are almond shaped and do not have teeth. The color ranges from light green to dark green in spring and summer and then it turns reddish in the fall.
The leaflet bundles will alternate on the vine, though the vine may not be very noticeable if it is growing low to the ground. Leaves on this plant are often shiny due to the liquid that they secrete. This is the stuff that makes you itch. Berries grow on poison ivy, as well. They are gray or white.
Keep in mind that the vine itself will be hairy. It has small red hairs on it that are very distinctive. Keep an eye out for it if you like to climb trees, since that is where the plants can grow–right up the trunk. Though they do not have teeth, there is a small notch on the side. Some have pointed out that the leaflets look like mittens with the notch being the part for the thumb.
Rhymes and tricks for remembering the visuals of the plant have been around for centuries. Look up some of the rhymes to help yourself remember. Another interesting fact is that butterflies tend to like poison ivy. Seeing one land on a plant that you are suspicious of is often a good indicator.
Now that you understand all about the looks of ivy, you should learn how to treat the rash if you accidentally stumble across some. It is an experience most people will go through at least once in their lives, given how commonly it grows in the summer. If you experience anything more than a rash, go to the hospital. Severe allergies could shut down your respiratory system or cause black outs.
Try not to scratch ever because it will irritate it more and could spread it around. Get anti-itch creams specially made to help with poison ivy. Those are your best bet. Other than that, you can take an oatmeal bath which is a relief treatment people with the chicken pox use.