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How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat Poison Ivy

How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat Poison Ivy

Nature Labs , Administrator  

How do I identify poison ivy?

what does poison ivy look like

The leaves of a poison ivy (Rhus radicans L / Toxicodendron radicans) plant are highly variable and can be glossy or dull, hairy, toothed or not toothed and sometimes lobed.

Poison ivy always has three leaves (thus the admonishment of "leaves of three, let it be) with one pair of lateral leaflets and one longer stemmed center leaf.  The plant produces small green, white, yellow flowers that turn into small white berries.  Blooms and fruits vary depending on area but generally in mid to late summer.  The leaves turn a bright crimson in autumn.  

Poison ivy is generally a vining plant and is often growing on trees and the leaves can look like they belong to the tree.  Poison ivy can also appear as a shrub (Western Poison Ivy) or creep along the ground. 

Poison ivy can be found in most of the United States and Canada (see the following USDA distribution maps).


Western poison ivy (left)                              Eastern poison ivy (right)

How do I prevent and treat a poison ivy rash?

The surest way to prevent a poison ivy rash is to avoid contact with the plant.  Every part of the plant contains urushiol and that is what causes the poison ivy rash - which can be mild to severe with itchiness and blisters.

Urushiol is the common irritating agent in poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

It only takes a light brush against the plant to result in a poison ivy rash.  Even indirect contact can cause a reaction (e.g. tools, clothing, other people).

Evidence suggests that Jewelweed is an effective treatment and preventative for poison ivy.  If you are heading out into the field or woods, our Jewelweed Lotion may provide some protection against getting a poison ivy rash when used as a barrier cream.

If you think you have come into contact with poison ivy and have not developed a rash (or even if you have developed a rash) our Jewelweed Soap can help relieve the itch and reduce the duration of your poison ivy rash.

For poison ivy, oak, and sumac, there are three important tenets (among others) that you should be aware of:

1. If you think you have touched poison ivy, oak, or sumac, be sure that you do not touch your eyes!

2. You should never burn poison ivy, oak, or sumac - inhaling the smoke can cause lung irritation! (Source: CDC)

3. Dead poison ivy, oak, or sumac plants are not safe - urushiol can remain active on any surface for as long as five years! In fact, samples of urushiol that were hundreds of years old were found to cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals. (Source: TDI/DWC)

DID YOU KNOW: About 90% of all Americans are allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, and/or poison sumac. (Source: TDI/DWC)

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) Images

Be sure to remember the jagged leaves of three, because you will want to avoid them at all costs.

Poison ivy in June (notice the small berries).

Poison ivy in June.


Poison ivy dermatitis can be a serious medical condition and if you believe you have poison ivy dermatitis, you should seek medical attention.  This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.



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