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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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 22, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Mark, B. Medical Clinics of North America, January 1, 2006.

American Academy of Dermatology: "Poison ivy: Who gets and causes."

Auerbach, P. Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition, Mosby, 2012.

Ferri, F. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012, Mosby, 2011.

American Academy of Dermatology: "Poison ivy: Tips for treating and preventing."

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