How Can I Prevent Rashes From Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac?
The best way to deal with this poisonous threesome is to learn to recognize the plants, then avoid them. Poison ivy -- with its shiny, sometimes reddish, yellow- or orange-colored leaves -- shares with poison oak a characteristic three-leaf pattern. Poison sumac has paired, pointed leaves, sometimes with yellow-white berries. Each leaf has seven to 13 leaflets.
If you suspect contact with a poison plant, wash immediately and thoroughly with soap and water -- your skin, clothes, shoes, tools -- anything that might have picked up the plant's toxic resin. If you're going into poison-plant country, try one of the barrier lotions available from outdoor suppliers. The old folk tale about eating poison ivy leaves to make yourself immune is just that -- a myth. Never eat the leaves or berries of poison ivy or other wild plants, many of which can cause very dangerous reactions.
Ryan Stanton, MD, doesn't want to meet you this summer. The Lexington, Ky., emergency room physician knows that when the weather starts heating up, so do a host of health hazards that can quickly turn a festive day at the beach into a disaster. He tells WebMD the Magazine about what brings summer revelers into his emergency room most often -- and how you can enjoy the warm weather while escaping the same fate.