Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Identification and Treatment

Poison IvyOutdoor fun can be brought to a screeching halt by getting poison ivy, poison Oak or poison Sumac. Early treatment is key, and identification and avoidance is better still.


The three leaves of Poison Ivy consist of three pointed leaves growing together, measuring .3 to 2 inches in length. The middle leaf has a much longer stalk than the outside ones. The leaflet edges can be smooth or toothed but not rounded. Like poison oak they are reddish in the spring as they bud, turn green during the summer, and become shades of red, yellow and orange in the fall.

Poison Oak is similar but with rounded leaves that look like Oak leaves. These leaves are also reddish in the spring and make the same changes as Poison Ivy through the seasons. Poison Oak leaves also usually have waxy look.

Poison Sumac is a close relative to Poison ivy with more slender leaves and is found mostly in the southern states.

This is a good three stage system for avoiding a reaction to poison ivy.

  • Avoid Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac
  • Don’t take a bath! Shower twice head to toe to rinse poison oils down the drain
  • Medical Treatment

Learn to identify poison plants on the in the wild. You will rarely find Poison Ivy or Oak above 2,500 feet of elevation. Local knowledge is the best indicator that Poison Ivy or Oak is abundant in an area. Actual visual awareness is the only way to identification and avoidance. Always take time to look and listen and learn if anyone shows you Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac.

Once you can ID the plants and avoid them you have most of the system down. If you may have had contact there is still hope. Carefully remove all clothing without unneeded contact and immediately put them in the washer. Wash your hands with soap and then get in the shower. Starting top to bottom, shower completely from your head down to your feet with shampoo, soap and warm (not hot) water at least twice. Never take a bath as the oils float and some of them will get back on other parts of your body. Technu is an over the counter soap that cleans off the oils to helps ease the rash.

Bad cases or cases that continue to spread should be taken seriously and taken to the doctor. Prednisone (a prescription steroid) can help Poison Plant cases heal much faster.

Avoid Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac, wash well and if needed treat with Technu and if necessary go to the doctor. Individuals with high exposure to these plants often develop resistance over time and learn to identify it most of the time. Identification and avoidance is the best method for safety from Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac.