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Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac - Myth vs Fact

Myth:                Poison Ivy rash is contagious.     

Fact:                  Rubbing the rash won’t spread poison ivy to other parts of your body or to another person. You spread the rash only by transferring the urushiol oil from the plant to other body parts or individuals.


Myth:               You can catch poison ivy simply by being near the plant.

Fact:                  Direct contact is needed to release the urushiol oil. Stay away from wildfires, direct burning, or anything else that can cause the oil to become airborne such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc. There is a danger of inhaling the oil into your lungs, which can result in catastrophic consequences.


Myth:                “Leaves of 3, let them be”

Fact:                  Poison sumac has 7-13 leaves on a branch, although poison ivy and poison oak do have 3 leaves per cluster.


Myth:               Do not worry about dead plants.

Fact:                  Urushiol oil stays active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years.


Myth:               Breaking the blisters releases urushiol oil that can then spread.

Fact:                  Not true. Wounds can become infected and you may make scarring worse. In very extreme cases, excessive fluid may need to be withdrawn by a doctor.


Myth:               I’ve been in poison ivy many times and never broken out. I’m immune.

Fact:                  Not necessarily true. Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, it’s a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed the more likely you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes longer for the rash to show up – generally 7 to 10 days.


Help to prevent poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac is available. Though there are many products which claim to work, the following product has proven to work for about 95% of people who have used it.

Best practice for preventing Poison Ivy/Sumac: Dawn Dishwashing Soap

Within two hours of working outside around trees and bushes, thoroughly wash exposed body areas with Dawn dish soap and a wash rag. Wash and rinse thoroughly 3 times. Wash down tools and equipment with Dawn and water. Wash your clothing immediately and don’t just throw it in a hamper where it could expose others. Taking time to do these simple tasks will prevent most poison ivy/sumac rashes and reduce the number of claims pertaining to poison Ivy exposures for your municipality.

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