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June: The Season for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Suma

Posted: June 5th, 2018

Warning: “Leaves of three let them be!” This applies to Poison Ivy & Oak, but the warning also applies to poison Sumac which has seven to 13 leaflets on each leaf. Approximately 85 percent of people will develop an allergic reaction such as an itchy, blistering rash when they come in contact with the sticky oil from these plants.  This contagious oil can linger on any surface:  skin, clothes, under fingernails, pets and even come through the air if a person is burning brush. This rash may last from 10 days to 3 weeks, or 6 weeks in severe cases. 

Staying away from the plants and wearing protective clothing is a great way to avoid getting a rash from these plants. This rash may be treatable at home, however if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing and you experience swelling and excessive rashes or blistering, we recommend that you go to the nearest emergency room. 

When you first come in contact with these plants, immediately rinse your skin in lukewarm, soapy water and wash your clothing or anything that may have come in contact with the oil from the leaves. If you have a mild rash, you can take care of it at home by applying a wet cloth, or soak the area in cool water, use calamine lotion or hydro-cortisone cream to help relieve itching, and avoid scratching the rash because this can cause a skin infection. Do not apply a topical antihistamine to your skin because it could make the rash and itch worse. If the rash covers a large area of your body or if your symptoms become severe, see a dermatologist and they may prescribe a corticosteroid cream, pills or shots to help clear up the rash. 

The best way to prevent future rashes is to learn to identify these plants and to stay away from them. If you are unable to avoid these plants, wear protective clothing and closed shoes to help keep the oil from getting on your skin. Wear vinyl or leather gloves not rubber, cotton or wool gloves because these do not protect the skin. Using a barrier cream or lotion with the ingredient bentoquatam (such as Ivy Block) helps prevent the oil from coming in contact with your skin.