After a long winter, it is a welcome sight to see everything blooming and turning green, however, some plants are making a comeback that may not be so welcome. Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are notorious for wreaking havoc on children, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Arming yourself with the knowledge of what to look out for, and what to do should you have a run in with one of these plants, will set you up for a much more enjoyable time spent outdoors this summer!

First up, Poison Ivy, the most widely known of this rash inducing trio. Some identifying factors of this plant include:

  • Leaves are found in groupings of three and often have pointed ends
  • May have reddish leaves in the Spring
  • Can grow as ground cover, small bushes, and also climb other plants and structures as a vine
  • Leaves are among the first to turn colors in the Fall, often turning vibrant Fall colors

Second most commonly encountered is Poison Oak. Some identifying characteristics of this plant include:

  • Found primarily in the Southeast US and West Coast – Missouri INCLUDED
  • Leaves grow in groups of three
  • Leaves are notched similar to actual Oak leaves
  • Can have yellow/green flowers as well as similar colored or white berries

Last but not least is Poison Sumac:

  • Primarily in the Eastern half of the country, especially prominent around the Mississippi River and boggy areas of the Southeast
  • Shrub like plant with leaves growing in groups of 7-13, arranged in pairs
  • Can have glossy, off white, or light yellow berries
Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac Leaves
Poison Ivy – Oak – Sumac Leaves

Some ways to avoid the rashes caused by these plants include:

  • Wearing long sleeves and pants when out in overgrown or wooded areas. Consider also using gloves and boots as an extra precaution. Wash all exposed clothing in hot water separate from other laundry.
  • Use rash barrier lotions to protect skin. Follow all product instructions carefully.

How to treat Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac.

If you find that you have encountered any of these plants, don’t worry, rashes from this poisonous trio are often treatable at home. The Urushiol oil secreted from these plants will typically produce an itchy, blistering rash, though everyone reacts differently to this exposure. Some easy steps to follow are:

  • Wash hands and affected area thoroughly and immediately upon exposure if possible.
  • Wash clothes in hot water, seperate from other laundry.
  • Clean all items that could have been exposed to the plant and it’s oil, including shoes, tools, pets, etc.
  • Avoid scratching rash or disturbing blisters.
  • To ease itching, short, lukewarm oatmeal baths or short, cool showers may help, as well as Calamine Lotion, Hydrocortisone Cream, or cold compresses.

    Example of Poison Ivy Rash
    Example of Poison Ivy Rash

While these treatments typically help ease the symptoms of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac rashes, always feel free to call your primary care provider to ensure you are taking the right course of treatment. If you do not see improvement in your symptoms after a week, or your symptoms are severe, such as:

  • Most of body is covered in rash
  • Multiple areas of rash and blistering
  • Face and/or genitals have rash
  • Swelling
  • Trouble Breathing or Swallowing

Such serious symptoms may require a trip to the Emergency Room. If you are a member of VIP Medical Services, please feel free to call your 24/7 Physician phone number and Dr. Holt and his staff will be happy to consult with you on whether or not your symptoms are treatable in our office, or if they warrant a trip to the ER. Hopefully this information provides you with the “need to know” knowledge to enjoy the outdoors, safely, this summer!

Rashes from Poison Ivy – Oak – Sumac

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