Poison ivy

Poison ivy, oak, or sumac poisoning is an allergic reaction that results from touching the sap of these plants.

The sap may be on the plant, in the ashes of burned plants, on an animal, or on other objects that came in contact with the plant, such as clothing, garden tools, and sports equipment.

Small amounts of sap can remain under a person's fingernails for several days unless it is deliberately removed with very good cleaning.

This family of plants (Toxicodendron) is hardy and difficult to eradicate. They are found in every state of the continental United States. They grow best along cool streams and lakes and luxuriate if it is also sunny and hot. They do not grow in Alaska or Hawaii, and do not survive well above 5000 feet, in deserts, or in rainforests.

If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Wear protective clothing whenever possible when travelling through terrain which is known to harbor these plants. Do not touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

  • Blisters
  • Burning skin
  • Itching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling

In addition to the skin, symptoms can affect the eyes and mouth.

The rash may be spread by touching undried sap and moving it around the skin.

 

Wash the area immediately with soap and water. Quickly washing the area can prevent a reaction, but it doesn't usually help if done more than 1 hour after touching the plant's sap. Flush the eyes out with water.

Carefully wash any contaminated objects or clothing alone in hot soapy water. Do not let the items touch any other clothing or materials.

An over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl or a steroid cream may help relieve itching.

 

Life-threatening reactions may occur if the poisonous ingredients are swallowed or are breathed in (which can happen when the plants are burned).

Typical skin rashes usually go away without any long-term problems. A skin infection may develop if the affected areas are not kept clean.