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Tips for Avoiding Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac: What to do if you think you touched it.

Updated: Sep 9, 2023


If you spend time outdoors, there's a good chance you will encounter poison oak. These rash-inducing plants are found throughout the United States. These plants produce an oily sap (Urushiol) that can cause a nasty skin reaction. In this blog post, we'll discuss some tips for avoiding Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Poison Sumac and ways to treat them if you do come in contact.


The first tip is to be aware of what these plants look like and where these plants grow. If you're spending time outdoors, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these plants. That way, you'll be able to spot it and avoid it.


Poison Oak – A vine-like plant or shrub that grows in the western and eastern United States. This plant has fuzzy leaves that are deeply toothed edges in groups of three. The leaves can vary in color from green, yellow, orange, and even red depending on the time of year. In spring this plant will have whitish-yellow berries and flowers. Poison Oak likes to grow in both sunny and shaded areas mixed in with other plants.


Poison Ivy – A vine-like plant or shrub that grows in the eastern United States. This plant has glossy leaves that are smooth toothed edges in groups of three. The leaves can vary in color from green, yellow, orange, and even red depending on the time of year. In spring this plant will have greenish-white flowers and whitish-yellow berries. Poison Ivy likes to grow in wooded areas in both sunny and shaded areas.


Poison Sumac – A shrub or tree that grows in the marshy, bog, or swampy sections of the southern United States. This plant has leaves in clusters of 7 to 13 smooth-edged leaves. The leaves can vary in color from green, yellow, orange, and even red depending on the time of year. In spring this plant will have yellow-greenish flowers and whitish-green fruits hanging in loose clusters. Poison Sumac can resemble a small tree as tall as 20 ft.



Another tip for avoiding these plants is to wear the proper clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and pants will help protect your skin from the plant's oily sap. If you're going to be in an area where these plants are known to grow, consider wearing gloves and a hat as well. And remember, never touch Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Poison Sumac with your bare skin. In some cases, if your clothes or pets come in contact with Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Poison Sumac you can also get it from touching them.

If you do come into contact with Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Poison Sumac, it's important to act quickly. Immediately wash the affected area with soap and warm water. The product I use when I think I brushed up against any of these plants is “Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray”. It comes in a spray bottle which helps with applying to your skin in the shower. This will help remove the plant's oils from your skin and reduce your risk of a reaction. There is also an over-the-counter product called Tecnu Cleanser. This product does the same as a soap but can be a little pricey.

If you do get a rash avoid scratching the area, and apply a calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the affected area to soothe any itchiness or irritation.


If you have a severe reaction, like blisters or open wounds from scratching too much you should see your doctor. Left untreated can lead to infections and scarring.

Another form of exposure to these plants is inhaling the smoke from burning the leaves or branches. If this is the case, it can be very dangerous. If you are having trouble breathing or have sores around your nose or mouth you should see a doctor right away.


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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