Facebook Pixel

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac: How to Avoid The Awful Itch

By HERWriter
Rate This
poison ivy, oak and sumac: avoiding that awful itch David Schliepp/PhotoSpin

Summer is a wonderful time to be out gardening and hiking. That is, unless you find yourself wrist- or knee-deep in a patch of poison ivy. It is not the leaves themselves that cause that horrible rash and itch but an oil on the leaves called uroshiol that adheres to your skin. Uroshiol is also on the stems, roots and berries.

The first step in preventing an exposure to poison ivy is knowing what it looks like so you can avoid it.

You may remember the saying “Leaves of three, let them be”. Poison ivy is green and appears as three leaves on a stem. The leaves take on a shiny look from the uroshiol oil as summer progresses. Then they turns reddish-yellow in late summer and fall.

Here is a photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Toxicodendron_radican...

Poison Oak is poison ivy’s West Coast evil sister and causes an equally bad rash and itch. The leaves are still in groups of three, though sometimes it's groups of five, and there may be small whitish berries present. It can also grow like a vine.

Here is a photo: http://scitoys.com/botany/poison_oak_4_28_97_birdfarm.jpg

And our story would not be complete without some discussion of poison sumac, which contains the same oil as poison ivy and poison oak. There is a single leaf on the end of on a poison sumac stem with rows of paired leaves below it.

Here is a photo: http://0.tqn.com/d/landscaping/1/0/j/C/poison_sumac_leaf.jpg

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to avoid exposure to one of these shrubs, you do find you’ve had contact.

What should you do if you have been exposed?

The key is getting that tenacious oil off of your skin. This includes keeping any clothes that may have oil on them or tools you have been using away to prevent recontamination.

If you are fortunate enough to be near your home, or a place you can shower, or where there is running water, you have a good chance of washing the oil off.

You must wash the oil off your skin so the water runs away from your face.

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Skin Rash

Get Email Updates

Skin Rash Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!