President's Rx: Poison Ivy

If you've ever been camping or hiking, you're probably aware that Poison Ivy isn't just Batman's enemy. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are common plants that, if you touch them, can result in an uncomfortable skin rash.

Poison ivy is typically found in wooded areas, especially along tree line breaks. It also grows in exposed rocky areas, open fields and disturbed areas. An oil called urushiol found in the plants' leaves, stems, flowers, berries and roots, is an allergen that causes itching, redness, small bumps, blisters or hives in at least 85 percent of people.

A poison ivy rash usually appears eight to 48 hours after direct, indirect or even airborne contact. But it can occur from five hours to 15 days after touching a plant.  Although it may look nasty, the rash is not contagious.

For most people, the rash will go away in a few weeks. However, call your doctor if the rash covers a large part of your body, if you have large blisters, or if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.

To treat a minor rash associated with a poisonous plant, follow these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  1. Rinse your skin right away with lukewarm water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching the poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil.
  2. Wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can actually stick to clothing. If this oil touches your skin, you can actually get another rash.
  3. Wash everything that may have oil on its surface. The oil can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes, and even a pet's fur. Be sure to rinse your pet's fur. Wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.

 For more information on how best to identify poisonous plants, visit