Learn how to recognize poison ivy, oak, and sumac here so you can avoid them, plus how to treat reactions in case of allergic reaction!
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Be Aware All Year Round
How to Identify Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
If you love spending time outdoors and are allergic to these plants then this article is a must read for you! If you aren’t sure that you are, in fact, allergic, then it’s always a good idea to be cautious just in case.
Urushiol is the oil from poison ivy, oak, and sumac which causes allergic reactions. It can stay potent for a long time so you wouldn't want it in your tools, gears, and clothes let alone your body.
Urushiol is found in the leaves, stems, and roots of poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants. You can even get a rash even in the winter so learning to identify these plants in all seasons is so important.
Learning to identify the poison ivy, oak, and sumac will help you avoid it. You can learn to identify these plants by their features and the areas where they grow.
1. Poison Ivy
The poison ivy is a shrub that shoots into a vine in growth. It has a pointed tip in its smooth or notched leaves.
Poison ivy changes leaf colors through the changes of the seasons. It is green in the summer with green or yellow flowers and clusters of greenish-to-white berries.
In the springtime, the young leaves are reddish which turn red or yellow-orange in the fall. In winter, it sheds off its leaves but the roots and vines can still give you a bad rash.
The defining feature of the poison ivy though is its leaves forming in clusters of three with the middle leaf larger than the leaves on the sides.
Be warned, “Leaves of three, leave them be,” is an old saying which rings true of poison ivy. Although there are other plants with leaves of three clusters, it's better to be on the safe side.
You see, even the poison oak comes with leaves clustered in three. So just be wary of all plants that come in three leaves to be safe.
Poison ivy symptoms include itching, blisters, and redness. You may also have difficulty breathing if you inhale the smoke from burning poison ivy.
2. Poison Oak
The poison oak is a woody shrub growing to about three feet tall but also grows into a vine. It commonly grows throughout the country except in desert areas.
Again, the poison oak, much like the poison ivy also has leaves clustered in three. And like the poison ivy, there are some varieties with leaves clustered in five to seven, too.
Its distinct feature though is a scalloped, wavy form only less defined than oak tree leaves. But, while poison ivy leaves have notched sides with pointed tips, poison oak's are smooth and rounded, also with pointed tips.
Poison oak is deciduous or loses its leaves during winter. In spring, its leaves are bright green, turning yellow-green or a shade of pink in the summer then turning yellow to brown during autumn.
Symptoms of a poison oak reaction include itchiness, redness, and swelling.
3. Poison Sumac
Poison sumac grows as a tall shrub or a small tree, growing to about 20 feet tall. Its distinct feature is elongated leaves, usually in clusters or pairing of 7 to 13 leaves.
You can find them growing in wet soil or swampy areas. That's why the poison sumac is common in the midwest parts of the North and Southeast where the humidity is high.
Poison sumac also changes color throughout the seasons. In the springtime, it is bright orange in color, dark green in summer, and turns red-orange during autumn.
Other distinct features are the clusters or fruits it bears. It has also clusters of greenish-yellow flowers growing in the summer.
Poison sumac allergies are even worse than poison oak and poison ivy rash. Poison sumac rash symptoms include a burning sensation and watery blisters.
Poison Oak, Sumac, and Poison Ivy Treatment
If you come into contact with these pants, act quickly and wash the area with water and mild soap.
However, if you do develop a rash from contact with one of these plants, here are 16 home remedies you can try.
1. Banana Peel
Rub the affected area with the inside of a banana peel.
Blend a raw potato into a paste with a blender. Using plastic wrap, place paste onto the affected area.
3. Baking Soda
Make a paste out of baking soda and water to apply to an affected area or take a tepid bath and add 1 cup baking soda to bath water.
Pour cold coffee into the affected area.
5. Dawn Dishwasher Soap
Apply liberally to the affected area and wash off with cold water.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Place in a spray bottle and chill in the refrigerator. Spray on the affected area as needed and let it air dry.
Apply directly to the affected area and air dry.
8. Swim in the Ocean
Only if you happen to be very close to one! Take a dip in the water.
Make a paste out of turmeric and lemon juice or rubbing alcohol. Apply to the affected area for 15 minutes and wipe off. Take note: It will make your skin yellow.
Apply cucumber slices directly onto the affected area or make a paste by chopping them up into fine pieces.
11. Watermelon Rinds
Apply directly onto the affected area.
Blend 2 cups uncooked oatmeal into a powder. Add to warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.
13. Aloe Vera
Apply flesh of plant directly onto affected area.
14. Epsom Salt
Add two cups to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.
Apply directly to affected area.
16. Tea Bags
Place cold tea bags onto the affected area. (Optional: Secure with duct tape.
Watch this video on how to treat poison ivy rash from Mayo Clinic:
Always be aware of your surroundings when spending time outdoors. In this case, with these particular plants, be aware of poison ivy, oak, and sumac all seasons long!
Have you encountered poison ivy, oak, and sumac before? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 26, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.