If you ever came in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac you know exactly the type of painful skin irritation one can experience. It begins with severe itching of the skin. Next the skin becomes inflamed and blistering occurs. In extreme cases oozing sores develop. Normally poison ivy rash can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks. With awareness and the ability to properly identify these noxious plants you can avoid direct contact and thereby prevent the inevitable skin rash. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are among the plants that produce a resin called urushiol which is the cause of the annoying allergic rash. Direct plant contact is needed to release the urushiol oil. Be sure to stay away from forest fires, direct burning, or anything else that can cause the oil to become airborne such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc. Urushiol oil can stay active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years. Poison ivy is not contagious and will not spread if rashes are touched or rubbed. However, since urushiol is sticky and resin-like it can be spread to other parts of your body or other people if left on your hands, clothing, gear, etc. Poison ivy and oak have 3 leaves per cluster and poison sumac has 7-13 leaves on a branch. Since poison ivy and it’s rash causing relatives commonly grow within other vegetation, it is very difficult to notice.
Often times it is only shortly after the rash has started on your skin that you realize recent contact was made. Since poison ivy is a very persistent plant, it is difficult to completely eradicate. Be sure to protect your skin with appropriate gloves, long sleeve shirt, pants, etc. when manually removing poison ivy, oak or sumac. One proven way to eliminate poison ivy is to apply a non-selective herbicide like Round Up per labeled application rate to completely kill this unwanted plant. As always, be sure to contact a professional to assist in plant identification and removal of poison ivy, oak or sumac by manual or chemical means.