Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
- Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Overview
- Why Does Exposure to Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Cause a Rash?
- What Symptoms and Signs Accompany a Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for a Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac Rash?
- What Types of Specialists Treat Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac?
- What Tests to Doctors Use to Diagnose a Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- What Are Treatment Options for a Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- What Are Remedies for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- What Is the Medical Treatment for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- Are There Medications for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- Follow-up Care for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash
- Are There Ways to Prevent Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash?
- What Is the Prognosis for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rashes?
- Where Can People Find More Information on Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac?
- Read more on Allergy: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac from Healthwise
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Overview
More than half the people in the United States are sensitive to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. If an individual is sensitive, he or she can develop an itchy, blistering rash by coming into contact with these plants.
- Whether working or just enjoying the outdoors, look out for these plants, and note the differences between each and what each looks like:
- Poison ivy is generally found east of the Rocky Mountains, growing as vines or shrubs. The leaves can have either smooth or notched edges and are often clustered in groups of three.
- Poison oak is more commonly found west of the Rockies, usually as a small bush but sometimes as a climbing vine. Its leaves are smooth-edged and cluster in groups of three, five, or seven.
- Poison sumac is most often found in wet areas of the Southeast. The leaves are generally smooth and oval-shaped, with seven to 13 growing on each stem.
- The appearance of each of these plants can vary considerably from region to region and with the seasons. Even dead plants in underbrush can transmit the toxic oil to the skin. Identification of these plants can help one avoid them.
Why Does Exposure to Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Cause a Rash?
The rash caused by poison ivy, oak, and sumac is an allergic skin reaction to an oil called urushiol that is inside the plant. This oil is found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, roots, and berries.
Exposure to the oil occurs through any of the following:
- Touching any part of the plants
- Touching clothing or other objects that have contacted the plants
- Touching pets or other animals that have contacted the plants
- Exposure to the smoke of burning plants
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac rash itself is not contagious. However, if oil remains on the skin or on clothing that came in contact with the plants, and the oil comes into further contact with skin, a rash may result. The rash may appear to "spread" because it can develop over several days, or it's possible the oil was not entirely removed from all surfaces.
Risk factors for developing poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash include being in areas where the plants grow, engaging in outdoor activities, and coming into contact with them.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2016
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