About 85 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, and about 10 to 15 percent are extremely allergic. An oily substance in the plants called urushiol causes the allergic reaction.
Poison Ivy, sumac and oak grow everywhere in the United States except Hawaii, Alaska and some deserts in Nevada. Although many plants have three leaves, their appearance may vary depending on location. Some have three leaves, while others have groups of five, seven or nine. Sometimes, these plants appear as a vine while in other places they appear as shrubs.
By taking some precautions, you may be able to prevent the oil from getting on your skin. Here’s what you can do:
- Learn to recognize these plants in order to avoid contact with them.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves when you are in an area where poison ivy is growing.
- If the possibility of contact with these plants exists, apply commercially available barrier creams to the skin, which may help prevent or lessen the exposure to the toxic plant oils. These products usually contain bentoquatam (Ivy Block) and should be applied about 15 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply as indicated on the package.
- Do not burn these plants because they can release urushiol into the air.
- Carefully remove these plants if they are growing near a home. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves. Clean all garden tools and gloves with rubbing alcohol or wash them with soap and water.
- Thoroughly wash all exposed areas of your skin with soap and running water as soon as possible. If you do this within five minutes after exposure, you can remove the urushiol. Be sure to wash under your nails and rinse well.
- Machine-wash the clothing you wore including hats and gloves in hot water and detergent.
- If a pet has been exposed to these plants, wear protective gloves and give them a bath.
If you develop a rash, avoid scratching. Try cool showers and calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching and speed healing. Soaking in a lukewarm oatmeal or baking soda bath helps to dry blisters and ease itching. If the rash gets worse or if you have a fever, stiff nick or vomiting, call for an appointment with Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center at 330-425-7600 she can prescribe medications to help treat it. You can also schedule an appointment online by clicking here. If you have a bad case of Poison Ivy, we will try to get you in the same day you call!
Call 911 of you have trouble breathing or swallowing.
Click here for tips to relieve the itching and rash.