While summer is an excellent season to spend outdoors with family and friends, it is also a prime time to be exposed to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.  Unless you’re living in Alaska or Hawaii, all parts of the United States are regions where one or more of these three poisonous plants can be found.  Listed below are some important facts and tips to keep you up to date on how to avoid these plants and what to do if you encounter them.

  • Prevention
    • Wash your garden tools regularly and be sure to wear long pants tucked into boots and long sleeve shirts while working in the garden.
    • Wash your pets with water and shampoo if you know they will be around poisonous plants.  While many pets are not sensitive to the plants, the poisonous oil on their fur could be spread to humans.
    • Consider purchasing “Ivy Block” before coming in contact with known poisonous plants.  This product is FDA approved to block contact with oak, ivy, and sumac oils.
  • Treatment
    • Wash the affected area in cool water as soon as possible after contact.  This will ensure that the oils are removed and prevent further spreading.
    • Avoid scratching at the rash and blisters.  Bacteria from your fingernails can cause an infection.
    • The rash and blisters will go away on their own in several weeks; however, you can relieve the symptoms by applying a cool wet compress, corticosteroid cream, or calamine to the affected area.
  • Tips to Remember
    • The rash produced by coming in contact with these plants is not contagious!  The only way that the rash can spread is by coming in contact with lingering oils on surfaces such as gardening tools, pets, clothing, etc.  Be sure to wash all surfaces with water or rubbing alcohol as the poisonous oils can linger for several years.
    • Although the rash will clear up on its own, you should contact your doctor if…
      • You have a temperature of >100 degrees
      • If there is pus, yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash
      •  The itching gets worse or keeps you awake at night
      • The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genitals, or covers more than one-fourth of your body

Source:  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049342.htm