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Their main similarity is that they contain urushiol. Poison ivy is a vine with leaves growing in clusters of threes. It usually grows close to the ground, but it can also grow on trees or rocks as a vine or small shrub. The leaves are somewhat pointed.
They have an intense green color that can be yellowish or reddish at certain times of the year, and are sometimes shiny with urushiol oil. Like poison ivy, poison oak has intense green leaves with differing amounts of red color during the year. It also grows in clusters of three. Poison oak leaves are a bit different than poison ivy leaves.
Poison oak grows as a low shrub in Eastern and Southern states, but as a long vine or tall clump on the West Coast. Poison sumac also grows as a tall shrub or small tree.
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Unlike poison ivy and poison oak, its leaves grow on stems with groups of 7 to 13 leaves that appear as pairs. Poison sumac leaves are reddish green.
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The plant also grows small, whitish-green hanging berries. Some people never become sensitive and can be exposed to the oil without developing a rash. For others, sensitivity to urushiol can decrease over time. In some cases, children become less sensitive as they grow older.
Summer Is Here―Time to Avoid A Brush with Poison Ivy
Sensitivity levels to urushiol vary, and so does the intensity of the rash. If a person has a reaction, it may be mild, moderate, or severe. In most cases, an allergic reaction from urushiol is mild and lasts around one to three weeks.
In severe cases, a rash might last longer. Inhaling burning poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can cause dangerous rashes and swelling in the nasal passages and airways. Many people think the rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can spread over the body. They can, but only if the urushiol you come into contact with is spread to and absorbed in other parts of the body. It can take a long time for the rash to appear on some parts of the body, which can make it seem like the rash is spreading.
You should also avoid topical anesthetics, such as benzocaine. Find OTC anti-itch medications , calamine lotion , antihistamines , aluminum hydroxide gel , and zinc oxide here.
Many people think a poison plant rash can be spread from one part of the body to another or from person to person. In general, this is not true. You can spread the rash only if you have urushiol on your hands. Also, it can take longer for the rash to appear on certain areas of the body, especially areas such as the soles of the feet where the skin is thicker.
This might give the appearance that the rash has spread from one part of the body to another. You also can be re-exposed to the urushiol by touching gardening tools, sports equipment, or other items that were not cleaned after being in contact with the plants. Scratching or touching the rash and fluid from blisters will not cause the rash to spread because urushiol is not present in the blister fluid.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. What are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac? What are the symptoms of a poisonous plant reaction?
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All 3 plants contain the same chemical urushiol and cause the same reaction, which generally occurs in phases: Redness and itching of the skin are the first signs of exposure. A rash erupts on the skin, often in a pattern of streaks or patches from where the plant has come into contact with the skin.
The rash develops into red bumps called papules or large, oozing blisters. How common are reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac? How are reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac diagnosed? How are reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac treated? How long does a poison plant rash last? Does immunotherapy "allergy shots" help with poison plant allergies? Can reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac be prevented? You can take steps to prevent exposure: Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, and avoid contact with them.
Remove these plants from around your home, especially in areas where you might be working or playing. When walking in the woods or working in areas where these plants might grow, cover your skin as much as possible by wearing long pants, long-sleeves, shoes, and socks.
Do not let pets run in wooded areas where they might be exposed to the poison plants. They can carry urushiol back home on their fur. Although pets are unaffected by the oil, they can carry it on their fur and easily pass it to humans. In the springtime, the plants will blossom with very small white flowers and bright green leaves.
Over the course of the summer months, the plant will produce greenish berries, too. Summer poison ivy leaves are still green, but there might be a few leaves that appear redder. In the fall, the leaflets will turn full-on red with some orange and yellow, too. It is important to be vigilant even during winter months, as you can still be affected by poison ivy during the cold season. The plant will have lost its leaves, but you can still identify it by looking for white berries, gray bark, and aerial or above-ground roots.
Poison Ivy, Sumac & Oak
Poison ivy can present as a climbing plant that vines up trees and other standing structures, and also as a shrub or widespread ground colonies. To deal with a poison ivy infection, wash the afflicted area immediately after touching the plant with warm soap and water, and try to limit irritation with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone. The more sap or urushiol on your skin, the worse the rash. These poisonous plants In the spring, it will be bright, bright green.
Probably the least known poison plant, so it's especially important to know what to look for. Keep your eyes peeled for red stems, with 7 - 13 leaves arranged in pairs with one on the end. Those leaves are long and oval-shaped, with fairly smooth edges. Sumac typically grows as a tall shrub or even as a tree anywhere from 5 feet to 20 feet tall. The thing about poison sumac is that is looks really similar to non-poisonous leaves, and the colors are beautiful.