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Allergies Health Center

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Allergies to Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

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How Can Poison Plant Reactions Be Prevented?

You can take steps to prevent poison plant reactions with the following tips:

  • Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, and avoid contact with them.
  • Remove these plants from around your home, especially in areas where you may be working or playing.
  • When walking in the woods or working in areas where these plants may grow, cover your skin as much as possible by wearing long pants, long-sleeves, shoes, and socks.
  • Do not let pets run in wooded areas where they may be exposed to the poison plants. They can carry urushiol back home on their fur.

Is a Poison Plant Rash Contagious?

Many people think a poison plant rash can be spread from one part of the body to another or from person to person. In general, this is not true. You can spread the rash only if you have urushiol on your hands. Also, it can take longer for the rash to appear on certain areas of the body, especially areas such as the soles of the feet where the skin is thicker. This may give the appearance that the rash has spread from one part of the body to another. You can also be re-exposed to the urushiol by touching gardening tools, sports equipment, or other items that were not cleaned after being in contact with the plants. Scratching or touching the rash and fluid from blisters will not cause the rash to spread because urushiol is not present in the blister fluid.

What Should I Do If I am Exposed to a Poison Plant?

If you think you may have been exposed to a poison plant:

  • Remove your clothes.
  • Wash all exposed areas with cool running water. Use soap and water if possible. Be sure to clean under fingernails. In the woods, the water of a running stream can be an effective cleanser.
  • Wash clothing and all gardening tools, camping gear, sports equipment, and other objects that came into contact with the plants.
  • Bathe pets exposed to the plants.
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