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Understanding Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac -- Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on July 26, 2021

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

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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