How to Recognize Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
Many people around the world are sensitive to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac which are all common plants to find in bush type landscapes. If an person is sensitive, he or she can develop an itchy, blistering rash by coming into contact with these plants.
The differences between each and what each looks like:
• Poison ivy. The leaves can have either smooth or notched edges and are often clustered in groups of three.
• Poison oak. usually as a small bush but sometimes as a climbing vine. Its leaves are smooth-edged and cluster in groups of three, five, or seven.
• Poison sumac is most often found in wet areas. The leaves are generally smooth and oval-shaped, with seven to 13 growing on each stem.
The appearance of each of these plants can vary significantly from region to region and with the seasons. Even dead plants underbrush can transmit the toxic oil to the persons skin. Identification of these plants can help a person to avoid them.
Why Does Exposure to Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Cause a Rash?
The rash caused by poison ivy, oak, and/or sumac is an allergic skin response to an oil called urushiol that is inside the plants. This oil is found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, roots, and berries.
Exposure to the oil occurs through any of the following:
• Touching any part of the plants
• Touching clothing or other objects that have contacted the plants
• Touching pets or other animals that have contacted the plants
• Exposure to the smoke of burning plants
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes themselves are not contagious. However, if oil remains on the skin or on clothing that came in contact with these plants, and the oil comes into further contact with skin, a rash might result. The rash could appear to "spread" because it can develop over numerous days, or it's possible the oil was not entirely removed from all surfaces.
Risk factors for developing poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash include being in areas where the plants grow, engaging in outdoor activities, and coming into contact with them.