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Poison Ivy Poison Oak and Poison Sumac - OutdoorPlaces.Com

 Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Guide -Page Two


poison ivy

There are a variety of over the counter oral and topical products that can ease the symptoms of poison ivy (but won’t cure it).  Good old-fashioned calamine lotion, zinc oxide ointment, baking soda paste (one tablespoon of baking soda to one teaspoon of water), hydrocortisone cream, baths in oatmeal soap or medicated oatmeal based products like Avenno, and taking oral Benadryl can help ease the symptoms.  Soaking in a baking soda bath can also help with broad rashes.

Only in extreme cases should you see a physician for a poison ivy, oak or sumac related rash.  If the rash covers a large area of your body, is on your face, in your mouth, in your eyes, or your genitals you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.  If after exposure to poison ivy there is swelling in the throat, tongue and or lips, if the victim has a hard time breathing, is weak or dizzy, has blue lips and mouth, or falls unconscious, they could be having a very severe reaction requiring immediate medical treatment.  Self-medication without a physician is never recommended, if you have an adrenaline kit, know how to use and are qualified, administer adrenaline as needed.

In about 10% of cases where there is a rash outbreak the skin can become extremely red and swollen, pus can ooze from the skin and the rash can spread very rapidly.  This is one of only a handful of truly urgent dermatological emergencies that needs treatment.

If you were exposed to the smoke of burning poison ivy, oak or sumac and you believe you may have breathed in the fumes, you need to seek medical treatment immediately.  Some people can have life threatening reactions from inhaling urushiol vapors into their lungs.  In some states, it is illegal to burn poison ivy due to the health risks it represents.  With exception to the exposure to the vapor in smoke, most folks do not have these severe reactions, but do get the vexing annoying itch and rash.

The best way to prevent a rash or infection is to know what the plants look like.  “Leaflets of three, let it be,” is pretty smart advice.  If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, taking a hot shower as soon as possible using strong soap, as well as washing any clothing or equipment that comes in contact in the same manner is also helpful.  Be careful in where you select your camp and also where you rest, sit, and relieve yourself.  If you are camping in the backcountry make sure the path to your cat hole is free and clear, you won’t be as careful at 2:30 in the morning in the dark.  As always, understanding and common sense can keep you from having a bad experience, with this annoying, but necessary plant.

Poison Ivy - Copyright 1999, OutdoorPlaces.Com, All Rights Reserved

Poison Ivy is found over most of the United States.  It has three leaves, and can creep as much as ten feet up trees, rocks and walls.  The berries can be white or light blue in color.  Most prevalent in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

Poison Oak is found over the entire west coast and the southern half of the United States in non-desert regions.  The leaves resemble those of an oak tree, but are in the same clusters of three as poison ivy and have the same small whitish-blue berries.

Poison Oak - Copyright 1999, OutdoorPlaces.Com, All Rights Reserved

Poison Sumac - Copyright 1999, OutdoorPlaces.Com, All Rights Reserved

Poison Sumac can have groups of five to thirteen leaves.  The berries grow between the leaves (not placement on picture versus Poison Oak above) and can grow in very large clusters, as long as branch with leaves on it.  Poison Sumac causes the worst rashes, and is typically found in damp, cool, marshy environments in the northern half of the United States.  It is most profuse in the Great Lakes states, especially around bogs.