All my life I’ve been highly reactive to the fairly common plants poison ivy, oak, and sumac. When most people come into contact with these plants, they develop a rash that usually itches and takes a few days to clear up. If you live in or regularly visit an area with a large amount of un-manicured land, you may need to know how to identify these plants. Here are the ways you can identify and treat the rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
Poison ivy is the most common plant that you hear about people encountering on a regular basis. In these cases it takes only one nanogram of the oil from poison ivy to have an effect on the skin. The oils produced can stay active for up to five years on any surface involved. Make sure to not only wash your clothes, but also any surface you have touched. Poison ivy is bright green and its leaves grow in groups of three from a vine. In the spring this plant has yellow flowers while in the fall their leaves can change to red or yellow.
Here are some easy treatments to help clear the rash and alleviate itching:
- Rubbing Alcohol– This will help dry out the rash and alleviate itching. If you clean your skin before the oil takes effect, you may be able to remove it before a rash appears.
- Baking Soda– Make a concoction of water and baking soda to cover the area of rash. Change every few hours three times a day until healed or take regular baths with a cup of baking soda added for total body relief.
- Vinegar– No matter whether it’s a bug bite or plant rash, vinegar has been shown to help alleviate itching in many cases. Apply gently with a cotton ball for soothing effects.
Poison oak also has three leaves like poison ivy. However, the leaves themselves have a ruffled edge that almost resembles the leaves from an oak tree. Be aware that while poison oak is usually found in bush form, it can also be found as a vine that resembles many other non poisonous plants.
Here are 3 easy ways to treat poison oak.
- Coffee– If you have a cold cup of coffee you can try pouring it over the rash for relief from itching and to promote the healing of the rash.
- Aloe Vera– Aloe Vera sap helps stop itching and treats the rash with its anti-inflammatory properties. You can buy this bottled or grow your own right at home.
- Oats– If you can’t seem to get any relief from other remedies, try soaking in a bath with 2-3 cups of oats. This will dry your blisters and soothe irritated areas of skin,
Poison sumac is the one that we see the most often in my area, and the one most people have had to deal with. You can identify poison sumac by the black or brown dots on their leaves. While they may look like tree shrubs you can pick out poison sumac through the spots which hold the irritating oils. These plants have up to thirteen leaves per branch and thrive in wet areas.
Here are some ways to relieve some symptoms of poison sumac.
- Liquid Hand Soap– Surprisingly just plain hand soap could relieve many of the symptoms of poison sumac. Rinsing with warm water and soap could alleviate itching and remove oils that haven’t yet set into the skin.
- Cucumber– Try slicing half a cucumber and placing it on the rash. These can either be directly applied or mashed into a paste with baking soda and water for relief.
- Running Water– Before applying other topical solutions, try running the affected body part under cool water. Be careful to only use cool and not hot water. Hot water widens pores and allows more oil into the skin.
No matter where you live it’s good to know about the different types of irritating plants in your area. Learn to identify these and how to treat them to keep everyone in your family happy and healthy.
For more outdoor related reading from this author check out:
Great Outdoors Activities You Should Give a Shot
10 Great Camping Hacks To Make The Outdoors Easy
Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center