These are a few of my favorite things … to be aware of in nature.

Poison Ivy – “Leaves of three, leave them be!”  Poison ivy is quite prevalent in many states.  The plants are most often found in semi-sunny areas along trails and in back yards.  New leaves are a shiny green; mature leaves are a deeper green, and in the fall they are a gorgeous blend of colors.  Not only the leaves carry the noxious oil urushiol , but so do the stems and vines.  Anyone can have a reaction to poison at any time, even if you have been previously exposed and never had a rash.  Urushiol is a highly alkaline substance, so it must be neutralized with an acid-containing cleanser.  The best cleanser I have found is Technu.  They also offer a cream that can provide a protective layer for your skin if you think you might inadvertently be handling ivy.  Once exposed, apply Technu cleanser liberally to the skin and let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then rinse with LOTS of water.  If the itch continues, use it again.  Serious cases occur when poison ivy is used as nature’s “toilet paper,” or if it is burned and the oil reaches the lungs.  See your doctor for severe cases.

Deer ticks and Lyme Spirochetes – Avoid or handle carefully.  As the weather warms, many states are moving fully into tick season.  Ticks can be found most anywhere now, even in urban grassy yards.  Most prevalent in the woods, they lie in wait until a host passes by.  They then drop onto the person or animal, or drop onto the ground and crawl upward.  In general, ticks cannot crawl downward, so your best protection is to wear socks cuffed over, and shirts with collars.  Hats are a must.  After being outdoors be mindful of “new itches,” and check for a tick in that area.  Deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease.  They are as small as the period at the end of this sentence.  They must feed from 1-24 hours before they can pass on Lyme disease, if they are carrying it.  A Lyme rash looks like a bullseye, but often there is no rash.  To remove a tick, I recommend a Pro-Tick Remedy remover tool.  The tool is available via this site:  This site also has excellent educational information.  Once you remove the tick, do not kill it. Either place it in a jar with tight seal if you want it sent to a lab for identification, or seal it between two pieces of tape and dispose of it in your garbage.  Never put a live tick in the toilet—it will survive!  Testing for Lyme is best done 4-6 weeks after the bite.  If you have a bulls-eye rash or symptoms, however, your doctor may recommend a course of antibiotics prior to testing.

Water – Stay hydrated.  Always have water with you, and drink BEFORE you are thirsty.  Having a salty snack can help you maintain your electrolytes.  Drink, drink, drink!  And remember there is nothing equivalent to water—sports drinks are not a substitute.

Bumps and Bruises – Be prepared.  For all the joy that warm weather activities bring, they can also bring bruises and aches and pains.  I recommend always have a jar of Arnica cream handy.  Applied at the first moment of injury, the arnica will stop the body from overreacting to the injury and your bruises will be smaller and heal faster.

Sunscreen – Avoid overexposure.  Yes, vitamin D is important and is obtained via sunlight, BUT, our skin can be easily damaged from too much exposure.  Choose a product that has as few additives as possible (I do not endorse any specific brand).  Reapply sunscreen frequently Always wear a hat.  Another option is to purchase clothing that has sunscreen properties.  To give you ideas, this site has many products that provide sun protection:

© Trinity Integrative Family Medicine, Inc., glkocourek, Jun-2016, latest revision 09-May-2021