Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac and Poison Oak-10 Facts you MUST KNOW

Poison Sumac-August 25

Non-poisonous sumac

I’ve had my share of run ins with poison ivy and poison sumac. Years ago I got a free load of mulch from the dump. Yep, you know where I’m going… In less than 24 hours- 80 percent of my body was affected with blisters and rash. It only takes one experience to teach you a powerful lesson. I’ll never get mulch from the dump again! Here are some other things we need to know about these poisonous plants.

1. Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak.

Poison Sumac

Poisonous  Sumac-found mostly in swampy locations

The poisonous sumac is a woody shrub or small tree growing up to 20 feet tall.
The stems of the leaflets are always red. Yellow-green flowers are present during June and July. The small white or grey berries are visible in September.
Non-poisonous sumac has red berries. Poison Sumac differs from other sumacs in having shorter leaves, fewer leaflets, and smooth leaf edges.

Poison sumac-remember if a cat goes through it and you pick it up- you're going to get the poisonous oil on you.

If your barn cat goes through poison ivy or poison oak and you pick it up- you’re going to get the poisonous oil on you.

If your dog runs through it, comes in the house and plops down- what he touches is infected with oil.

If your dog runs through poison ivy, comes in the house and plops down- anything he touches is infected with oil! You must wash your animal with soap and water to get the oils off.

2. How long does poison ivy, sumac, and oak stay active?   1-5  years. Anywhere the plant has touched, if it is not washed- is potentially active with urushiol oil.

3. Do NOT burn poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak in a brush pile. The poison plant oil called urushiol can cause a very severe allergic reaction. The heavy particles of the smoke contain urushiol, which will fall down in soot form and can be inhaled. The lungs can swell, cause coughing,  extreme irritation, and swelling in the throat. It can also cause blisters, swell face, and eyes shut.


This is a serious hazard. I’ve seen pictures of babies with their eyes swollen shut from being exposed to the poisonous oils released into the air through bonfire.

4. Wash poison oil off ASAP. I am highly allergic to it and once a month I mow through areas infested with it.  I  mow for 30 mins wearing jeans, boots, long sleeve shirt and glasses.  I go inside take clothes off and put directly into washing machine. Next, I head to shower and wash myself well with soap and water. This has prevented almost all reactions for me personally.  Sometimes if I have a large area to mow I’ll come in and change clothes and wash every 1/2 hour.   I don’t let my clothes hit the floor.

Poison ivy would take over the property if we didn't control it

Poison ivy would take over the property if we didn’t control it

5.  Discard poisonous branches and leaves.  Wear long sleeves, pants, boots, gloves and goggles. Chop branches and put in garbage bags and put into trash.

Poison ivy running rampant up old oak tree

Poison ivy running rampant up old oak tree

6. How to keep poison ivy, poison sumac and poison ivy from spreading.  Keep mowed by tractor, cows, goats and sheep. Pour heavy amounts of salt on area after it is mowed down. It will kill everything around it, so be careful where you pour.

Goats LOVE poison ivy! It's a delicacy to them. They don't eat much grass but they love brush.

Goats LOVE poison ivy!  They don’t eat much grass but they love brush!

7. Poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak are not poison dormant in the winter. It is not safe to clear poison areas in the winter.  It is just as active in the winter as summer.

8. If your cow or goat eat poison ivy and you drink the milk it does not  give you  immunity to the toxins. Scientist say that is folklore.  90 percent of people are allergic on some level, the others aren’t.

Goat milk from goats eating poison ivy does not give you an immunity to the toxin

Goat milk from goats eating poison ivy does not give you an immunity to the toxin

9. Poison ivy blisters are not contagious. You must come in contact with the urushiol oil to get it. If you haven’t washed clothes, boots, etc that were touched by it you’ll get it. Not by touching blisters but touching the oil.

10. Treatment if infected with poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison sumac: 1. Bathes with baking soda and epsom salt are effective. 2. Put a teaspoon of baking soda on wet gauze, cover affected area. 3. Banana peel and cucumber soothe the itch. 4.  Pour whey onto gauze or folded absorbent paper towel and cover affected area. Secure in place.  The whey treatment helps us more than other treatment.hwkb17_017_18_19.jpg

  • Anonymous said:

    Great article about poison ivy! I will definitely look out for these plants.

  • Will said:

    Another serious problem that a lot of people don't even know about is Virginia Creeper. It's a vine. Look it up on Google Images to see what it looks like. It has a chemical in it called Oxalate, which about 15% of the population--including me--are highly allergic to. You might be able to get it from touching the leaves, but usually you get it from cutting the vines, often when taking it down from climbing up the side of your house or fence. It causes redness and mind-bending itching, BUT NO BLISTERS. Instead it looks like a 2nd degree burn. It doesn't weep like ivy/oak/sumac. Doctors will often misdiagnose it, but that's how you can tell the difference. You can treat it with topicals, oral benadryl, all the usual stuff, and that helps a little bit. But not much. I had it so bad I couldn't sleep. There's only one thing that I found that really worked for me, and that was filling up a bathtub with water as hot as I could stand, and getting in. For 30 seconds it's agony, but it's followed by 4 hours or so of being symptom-free. It's the only way I got any sleep for about 5 days. I think it causes all the histamine in your cells to erupt all at once. That's a guess; I'm not a doctor. But it works. One serious, though ridiculous side note: While the 30 seconds or so feels like agony, at the same time, if feels sort of like an orgasm, too. Swear to God. I know that sounds weird, but it does. My wife came into the bathroom once just as I was doing the agony/ecstasy dunk, and I got all hot-n-bothered about her. I know that's weird, but it is what it is, and those of you who try this will know what I'm talking about! Hope that helps somebody out there.