Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center

poison ivy leaves
Leaves of three, let them be...

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A quick overview of poison ivy, oak, and sumac facts and myths.
A general discussion how oil is removed by soaps or solvents and how different products may work.
A collection of pictures identifying poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Pictures are being added which detail the changes in the plants in the various seasons. There are also links to other great sites which have more photos.
A list of commercial products available to treat the Urushiol-induced rash with links to the product site. There is also a small list of viewer recommended products.
A very LARGE list of commercial and home remedies, regimens, and treatment ideas for dealing with an allergic reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac suggested by our viewers.
A place where viewers can ask and answer questions about poison ivy, and its cousins.
Questions we've received about poison ivy, oak or sumac with answers.
Frequently Asked Questions about identifying and controlling poison ivy, oak, and sumac as well as identifying and treating the rash.
Lots of great links to other poison ivy, oak or sumac related sites grouped by category. Find treatments, quizzes, rash identification, control methods and more.
Some suggestions on controlling poison ivy, oak and sumac plants. If you're lucky you may be able to fully remove the plants - I've only been able to get them under control.
Links to predefined queries of popular search engines. Find info on poison ivy fast.
A listing of books available from Amazon about poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac identification, treatment, and control.
Listing of the entire Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center website.
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General Discussion

Poison ivy is a harmful vine or shrub in the cashew family. It grows plentifully in parts of the United States and southern Canada. Poison ivy usually grows as a vine twining on tree trunks or straggling over the ground. But the plant often forms upright bushes if it has no support to climb upon. Species related to poison ivy include poison oak, which grows in the Pacific Northwest and nearby regions of Canada, and poison sumac, which grows in the Eastern United States. Poison oak and poison sumac both are shrubs. The tissues of all these plants contain a poisonous oil somewhat like carbolic acid. This oil is extremely irritating to the skin. It may be brushed onto the clothing or skin of people coming in contact with the plants. Many people have been poisoned merely by taking off their shoes after walking through poison ivy. People can get poisoned from other people, but only if the oil remains on their skin. The eruptions themselves are not a source of infection. Appearance - the leaves of poison ivy are red in early spring. Later in spring, they change to shiny green. They turn yellow, red or orange in autumn. Each leaf is made up of three leaflets more or less notched at the edges. Two of the leaflets form a pair on opposite sides of the leafstalk, while the third stands by itself at the tip of the leafstalk. Small greenish flowers grow in bunches attached to the main stem close to where each leaf joins it. Later in the season, clusters of poisonous, berry-like drupes form. They are whitish, with a waxy look.

Control and treatment: Efforts have been made to destroy these plants by uprooting them or by spraying them with chemicals. But poison ivy and poison oak are so common that such methods have not been very effective in eliminating them. Contact with the plants should be avoided. After the oil has touched the skin, it usually takes some time for it to penetrate and do its damage. Before this happens, it is wise to wash the skin thoroughly several times with plenty of soap and water. Care should be taken not to touch any part of the body, for even tiny amounts of the oil will cause irritation. If poisoning develops, the blisters and red, itching skin may be treated with dressings of calamine lotion, Epsom salts, or bicarbonate of soda. Scientists have developed a vaccine that can be injected or swallowed. But this is effective only if taken before exposure.

Scientific Classification. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac belong to the cashew family, Anacardiaceae. Poison ivy is classified as Rhus radicans or Toxicondendron radicans. Poison oak is R. diversiloba or T. diversilobum and poison sumac is R. vernix or T. vernix.

About This Site

This web site is dedicated to those individuals that have ever experienced and suffered through the itching and painful rashes associated with contact of an oil called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-ol) from these plants. We hope that you will find relief in the pages on this site.