You’ve probably heard the saying: “Leaves of three, leave them be. Leaves of five, let them thrive.” This is helpful advice, but different strains of poison ivy, oak, or sumac can differ in appearence. Coming into contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac’s oily surface can lead to a skin irritation and rash that can last for weeks. Let's talk about how to protect yoru self.
For those who spend much of their time outdoors, they may not even remember coming into contact with these plants until symptoms appear. Their leaves and stems are covered in an oily resin called urushiol. Although it does not affect the birds who eat the berries of poison ivy, direct contact or indirect contact through pet fur, clothing or tools can cause a reaction.
Common Poison Ivy Symptoms
- Itching of the skin at site of contact
- Reddened skin
- Swelling of skin
- A break out of blisters (large and small)
- Difficult breathing or swallowing
How to Treat Poison Ivy
Rashes are not contagious on their own, but any urushiol underneath the fingernails or on clothes may spread reactions. The area of contact should be washed with soap and water to flush out all urushiol. Swelling can be treated with cold compress to stop the swelling and oral antihistamines can reduce itching. You should consult your Beyond Urgent Care Physician before further treatment.
If you have a more sever case, you can stop by one of Beyond Urgent Care’s three offices of Bethel, New Milford and North Haven. We'll diagnose your symptoms and prescribe the correction medication to relieve symptoms and help your skin recover.
How to Spot Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac
Poison ivy is typically found growing on a vine or shrub with leaves growing in clusters of three. The leaves are either smooth-edged or jagged and can be shiny or dull. Poison Ivy is found in wooded areas, fields and backyards. The leaves are roughly 2-5 inches long with a larger stalk in the middle. Poison is known to have hairy vines.
Leaves of poison oak resemble an oak leaf despite it belonging to a different family. Like poison ivy, leaves grow in clusters of three but their leaflets are a much duller green with more toothy leaves. The leaves themselves have hairs on both sides.
Poison sumac differs greatly from ivy and oak. Appearing as more of a fern, it grows between seven to thirteen leaves per reddish stem. The leaves are oval with pointed ends, usually growing in pairs. During the summer, the leaves are green, but they change color with the season like most plants. Poison Sumac normally grows in swampy areas.
How to remove Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Plants
Absolutely do not burn poison ivy, oak or sumac. Airborn urushiol in the smoke is toxic and not only may affect your skin, but it can cause a reaction in your mouth, nasal cavity, throat or lungs. Seek immediate care if this happens. Instead tear out the ivy from the roots and remove it from the yard. But before doing so, protect yourself.
Apply commercially available creams to the skin and wear protective gear before removing any poison ivy and oak. Anything around the plant should be washed thoroughly, including objects like swing sets and any clothing that came in contact with the area. If you have pets who may have been exposed, given them a bath before the urushiol spreads from their hair or fur.Beyond Urgent Care is a network consisting of locations within Bethel, New Milford, and North Haven. Beyond Urgent Care is dedicated to the health, wellness, and comfort of all of our patients.