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Understanding Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac -- Prevention

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.

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Have you ever finished a sweaty workout, and within minutes, noticed a peculiar smell? When "Jack" (not his real name) left the gym after basketball practice, he walked up to a group of friends. They immediately commented on someone’s body odor, wondering which of them was the culprit. "When I realized it was me, I was humiliated," Jack said. "I quickly went to my locker and realized that I didn’t have a deodorant at school. "I avoided all my friends that day. When I got home, I put my new deodorant...

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 29, 2014

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