Ahhhhhhh, your family loves the great outdoors and being one with nature! Unfortunately, while you’re trying to have a good time, you might have a “brush-in” with Poison Ivy. For 85% of the population, that is not good news. Dr. B. Well here with CommunityMed Family Urgent Care. If you are allergic to poison ivy, you’re more than likely to also be allergic to poison oak and poison sumac. These three plants contain a common skin-irritant plant oil called urushiol (pronounced yoo-ROO-shee-all).

How To Spot Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac:

By far the most troublesome plant encountered by Texans outdoors is poison ivy. Poison ivy has a triple-leaf structure you can learn to recognize — and then avoid. Avoid any contact with these plants when possible. Knowing about each of the three plants will help come in handy.

Poison Ivy leaves are smooth or toothed. It grows as a shrub or vine. It blooms May through July and has white berries with greenish white flowers. Poison ivy typically has a leaf made of three oval, shiny, pointed leaflets.

Poison Ivy Plant Close Up

Poison Ivy Plant Close Up

Poison Oak is much larger than poison ivy, which typically grows to about 1-3 feet tall with a 1-3-foot spread. Poison oak leaves can be found in clusters of five, seven or nine. This plant blooms spring to fall. However, even the winter remains of the plant carry urushiol.

Poison Oak Plant Close Up

Poison Oak Plant Close Up

Poison Sumac grows as small tree or woody shrub where each pinnate leaf has 7-13 leaflets. The leaves come to a point and have a wedge-shaped base. The leaves have a reddish tint and grow from red stems. It flowers and produces fruits which also contains the urushiol oil.

Poison Sumac Plant in Autumn Close Up

Poison Sumac Plant in Autumn Close Up

Unfortunately for most, Poison Ivy grows across North America. There are several species of poison oak, but the two most common in the USA are commonly referred to as “western” and “eastern” poison oak. Eastern poison oak is the most common here in Texas (particularly in the San Antonio and hill country areas). Poison Sumac is mostly located in the Eastern part of the USA (including the eastern part of Texas) and is fairly rare.

Rash Prevention Tips:

Cover your skin completely when hiking, camping, or working in forests and around shrubs; wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves, socks, and boots. Remember that you can also get a rash from indirect contact from clothes, pets, or tools that have urushiol on them. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes develop from contact with the oil. However, it is impossible to develop the rash from touching the blister fluid from another person with a rash. The reaction is only to the oil itself, which the immune system sees as a harmful substance. The rash from all three plants is identical.

Treating the Rash (at Home):

Should you get a rash from contact with one of these plants, try to relieve the itching and:

  • Wash the area thoroughly with lukewarm water and mild soap as soon as possible after contact with the plant(s).
  • Wash all clothes, shoes, socks, tools, pets, etc. that may have become contaminated.
  • Use cool compresses that may help during the blistering phase.
  • Try calamine lotion for the itching, but avoid skin products that contain anesthetics or antihistamines, which can cause their own allergic reaction.
  • Try cool showers or a mixture of baking soda and water applied to the area.
  • As a preventative measure, ask your doctor about an over-the-counter skin product containing a barrier such as bentoquatam to help protect the skin from urushiol if you work outside around plants and trees.

Part of treating the rash at home is knowing when to be seen by a medical professional.  If the over-the-counter options are not helping, or your rash is spreading despite at-home treatment, come into any of our Urgent Care Clinics any day of the week for experienced, medical help. It may be that you need a prescription or steroid shot to heal faster.

Common Symptoms Can Generally Last One to Two Weeks, and Include:

  • Itching
  • Red streaks or patches
  • Rashes
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • A burning sensation
  • Blisters that may leak fluid and later crust over

Seek Medical Attention For:

  • A rash over large areas of your body
  • A rash that lasts longer than one week to 10 days
  • Severe blisters, swelling, and itching
  • Symptoms in sensitive areas such as the eyes, genitals, throat or lips
  • Fever
  • A rash lasting longer than a week to 10 days
  • Blisters infected with pus
  • Difficulty breathing or severe coughing after exposure to burning plants

If you or one of your family members has a “brush” with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac, our friendly and caring staff at CommunityMed Family Urgent Care is here for you. Our Medical Professionals are trained to treat your symptoms and get you to feeling better fast. We’re open daily until 8pm with hardly a wait!

Take us with you by downloading our app – CommunityMed Family Urgent Care – where you can check-in and complete your paperwork from your smartphone.