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Published on June 17, 2013

Avoid an Itchy Situation

June 17, 2013

While not everyone is sensitive to toxic plants like poison ivy, for four out of five people, accidental contact can result in a painful, lingering rash. Touching these plants can be dangerous or even fatal to those who are severely allergic.
Walking in dappled sunshine under leafy trees is one of the most pleasant summer experiences—unless an encounter with a poisonous plant spoils the fun. Before you head outside this summer, learn to recognize common types of skin-irritating foliage.

Poison Ivy Identifying Poison Ivy
Most of us have heard the old adage, “leaves of three, leave it be,” but many plants have three leaves on a stem. Poison ivy can climb trees and structures like a vine, crawl in the shadows like an ordinary shrub, or trail along the ground beneath the undergrowth, making identification more difficult. To spot poison ivy, look for clusters of three leaves in a triangular arrangement at the tips of the stems. Poison ivy is red in the spring and fall. In the summer, the leaves turn a waxy bright green.
Poison Oak Knowing Poison Oak Differences
Poison oak also grows in a three-leaved arrangement, but while the leaves of poison ivy have smooth edges, poison oak’s leaves are divided into rounded lobes. The leaves are green in spring and summer, turning bright red or brown in the fall. Poison oak normally grows in a shrub shape, but some types grow in vine form.
Poison Sumac Spotting Poison Sumac
Poison sumac is a shrub or small tree. Each leaf has a woody central stem with one pointed leaflet on the tip, followed by four to seven pairs of leaflets arranged along the sides. Poison sumac is green in spring and begins turning scarlet red in the summer.

If you come into contact with a poisonous plant KishHealth System recommends cleaning the skin with rubbing alcohol, grease-removing dishwashing liquid, or a poisonous plant soap. Taking an over the counter antihistamine can help with allergy symptoms. If swelling is severe or you have trouble breathing, seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Sources: cdc.govaafp.org, and clevelandclinic.org

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