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How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat Poison Sumac

How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat Poison Sumac

Nature Labs , Administrator  

How do I identify poison sumac?

Unlike poison ivy and poison oak, poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix (L.) Kuntze) has 7 to 13 slightly shiny leaves organized in pairs. Poison sumacs are found mainly in wooded areas near water (such as bogs, swamps, streams, or ponds), and it is not as common as poison ivy (though equally potent). This plant is classified as a woody shrub (not vine-like) by the CDC and can grow up to 25 feet tall. Poison sumac may also bear glossy, yellowish or cream-colored berries.

Poison sumac is generally found in the eastern United States and Canada (see the following USDA distribution map).

How do I prevent and treat a poison sumac rash?

As with poison ivy, the surest way to prevent a poison sumac inflammation is to avoid touching the plant. Even the slightest contact is often enough to get the potent and inflammatory urushiol oil on your skin. Urushiol is the common irritating agent in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. This urushiol does not usually become airborne unless the poison sumac is being burned or diced up by a machine (such as a lawnmower).

Although jewelweed is more closely associated with poison ivy, it can be used to prevent and treat poison sumac rashes in the same way (since the cause, urushiol, is the same). Jewelweed lotion can help to prevent a poison sumac rash from starting (you would put this on before going hiking or hunting), and jewelweed soap can help to cure an already developed or suspected 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: Poison ivy was discovered by Captain John Smith in 1609, and it was he who first dubbed it "poison ivy."


Poison sumac dermatitis can be a serious medical condition and if you believe you have a poison sumac 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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