Jun 1, 2018

The Differences Between Poison Ivy / Oak / Sumac


Summertime is here! With the weather warming up, and the daylight lasting longer, more people will be spending more time outside. If you are planning a picnic or camping trip this summer, you should be aware of some of the poisonous plants you could encounter.
The itchy, red, irritating rash that follows a run-in with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac could bring a swift end to the outdoor fun, so it is important to know how to recognize which kinds of plants to stay away from. Talk to your kids about how to recognize the plants as well, so that they don’t come home from a day spent outside with an itchy rash.

How to Recognize Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is the most widely recognized poisonous plant. The plant can grow in the forms of vines, shrubs, or ground clovers. They grow in clusters of three and often have a glossy or sometimes fuzzy appearance.
Depending on the season, poison ivy’s appearance can change. In the summer, a poison ivy plant often has yellow flowers with white berries. In the fall, poison ivy leaves turn yellow and red.

How to Recognize Poison Oak

Unsurprisingly, because of its name, poison oak leaves look very similar to oak leaves. The leaves usually grow in clusters of three, five, seven, or nine. Often, the plant grows with light green or white berries.

How to Recognize Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac usually grows in pairs of seven to thirteen. To identify poison sumac, look for dark spots on the leaves and pale berries.

What should you do if you have a reaction to a poisonous plant?

As soon as you come into contact with the plant, wash there area immediately with soap and water. This could diminish the effect of the poison.
The most vital part of treating the rash is to avoid touching and scratching the area. The rash will be very itchy but scratching the rash will only irritate the skin more, and it could cause the rash to spread to other parts of the body. Too much scratching could also break the skin and cause infection.
In order to reduce the itchiness, oral antihistamines or cortisone creams can be used. Additionally, a cool compress or even an oatmeal bath may help relieve itchiness. With proper treatment, the rash should clear within two weeks.

Keep it from spreading

A poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac rash can spread around the body and to other people if precautions aren’t taken. Here are a few things you can do to keep it from spreading:
– Wash whatever clothing you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oils in the plant may still be on your clothes, so you’ll want to make sure the clothes are completely clean before they come into contact with any skin.
– Wash your pets. If any of the oils from a poisonous plant are in your pet’s fur, they will spread easily through your house, clothes, and furniture.
– Do not touch another person until your hands are clean. If you have touched a poisonous plant, the oil could spread to anything or anyone that you touch.
The best thing you can do in preparation for spending time outside this summer is knowing how to distinguish safe plants from poisonous plants. Being sure about which plants to stay away from will prevent any unwanted, plan ruining, itchy rashes.
If the reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac worsens dramatically, see you, doctor, as soon as possible. The rash could become infected, and you may need antibiotics to treat the infection.

Sign up for our newsletter!

Get the Latest news, tips, and resources from Crisp Regional Hospital.