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Poison ivy - oak - sumac

Sumac - poisonous; Oak - poisonous; Ivy - poisonous

 

Poison ivy, oak, or sumac poisoning is an allergic reaction that results from touching the sap of these plants. The sap may be on the plant, in the ashes of burned plants, on an animal, or on other objects that came in contact with the plant, such as clothing, garden tools, and sports equipment.

Small amounts of sap can remain under a person's fingernails for several days. It must be purposely removed with thorough cleaning.

Plants in this family are strong and hard to get rid of. They are found in every state of the continental United States. They grow best along cool streams and lakes. They grow especially well in areas that are sunny and hot. They do not grow in Alaska or Hawaii. The also do not survive well above 1,500 m (5,000 feet), in deserts, or in rainforests.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

 

One poisonous ingredient is the chemical urushiol.

 

Where Found

 

The poisonous ingredient can be found in:

  • Bruised roots, stems, flowers, leaves, fruit
  • Pollen of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

 

Symptoms

 

Symptoms of exposure may include:

  • Blisters
  • Burning skin
  • Itching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling

In addition to the skin, symptoms can affect the eyes and mouth.

The rash may be spread by touching undried sap and moving it around the skin.

 

Home Care

 

Wash the area right away with soap and water. Quickly washing the area can prevent a reaction. However, but it most often does not help if done more than 1 hour after touching the plant's sap. Flush the eyes out with water. Take care to clean under the fingernails well to remove traces of toxin.

Carefully wash any contaminated objects or clothing alone in hot soapy water. DO NOT let the items touch any other clothing or materials.

An over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl or a steroid cream may help relieve itching.

 

Before Calling Emergency

 

Get the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the plant, if known
  • Amount swallowed (if swallowed)

 

Poison Control

 

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

 

Take a sample of the plant with you to the hospital, if possible.

Unless the reaction is severe, the person will probably not need to visit the emergency room. If you are concerned, call your health care provider or poison control.

At the provider's office, the person may receive:

  • Antihistamine or steroids by mouth or applied to the skin
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation)

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Life-threatening reactions may occur if the poisonous ingredients are swallowed or are breathed in (which can happen when the plants are burned).

Typical skin rashes most often go away without any long-term problems. A skin infection may develop if the affected areas are not kept clean.

Wear protective clothing whenever possible when travelling through areas where these plants grow. DO NOT touch or eat any unfamiliar plant. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

 

 

References

Shofner JD, Kimball AB. Plant-induced dermatitis. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 63.

 
  • Poison oak rash on the arm

    Poison oak rash on the arm - illustration

    Poison oak rash on the arm. Several plants produce toxins that cause skin reaction. This is the appearance of poison oak dermatitis. Note the typical linear streaks produced either by scratching or brushing against the plant. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Poison oak rash on the arm

    illustration

  • Poison ivy on the knee

    Poison ivy on the knee - illustration

    This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the knee. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters (vesicles), often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant.

    Poison ivy on the knee

    illustration

  • Poison ivy on the leg

    Poison ivy on the leg - illustration

    This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the leg. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters, often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The rash is caused by skin contact with the oily sap (resin) of these plants. The oily resin usually enters the skin rapidly, and is seldom transferred from person to person. The rash is not caused by the fluid from the blisters. Thus, once the person has washed the oil off the skin, the rash is usually not contagious.

    Poison ivy on the leg

    illustration

    • Poison oak rash on the arm

      Poison oak rash on the arm - illustration

      Poison oak rash on the arm. Several plants produce toxins that cause skin reaction. This is the appearance of poison oak dermatitis. Note the typical linear streaks produced either by scratching or brushing against the plant. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Poison oak rash on the arm

      illustration

    • Poison ivy on the knee

      Poison ivy on the knee - illustration

      This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the knee. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters (vesicles), often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant.

      Poison ivy on the knee

      illustration

    • Poison ivy on the leg

      Poison ivy on the leg - illustration

      This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the leg. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters, often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The rash is caused by skin contact with the oily sap (resin) of these plants. The oily resin usually enters the skin rapidly, and is seldom transferred from person to person. The rash is not caused by the fluid from the blisters. Thus, once the person has washed the oil off the skin, the rash is usually not contagious.

      Poison ivy on the leg

      illustration


     

    Review Date: 11/4/2015

    Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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