If you’ve ever had the misfortune of coming into contact with poison ivy, you likely won’t forget the encounter any time soon. First comes the red rash, itching and blisters. Symptoms can develop from a few hours to even a week later.
The culprit? Urushiol oil found in the sap of these plants. Just two micrograms, what would sit on the head of a pin, is enough to cause misery to a person. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac so that you can distinguish them (and stay away) in the future.
Try and remember: Leaves of three, let them be. Don’t forget about the leaves of seven and 13, either.
It has often been thought you can spread poison plant rashes to another person. This is not true. What you can spread to another person or even on your own body is urushiol that hasn’t yet been removed. Plant oil can stick to pets, clothing, garden tools, or anything else the plant has come into contact with. Urushiol can stick to most any surface and cannot be destroyed. The oil can, in fact, live for years on any surface until it is effectively removed.
Rashes only occur where the oil has touched the skin and can be spread throughout the body by scratching if it is not removed. You may think the rash is spreading but this isn’t true, you may be spreading oil that has remained under your fingernails and where you have touched another part of your body. Also, different parts of the body may absorb the urushiol at different rates, making it appear as though the rash were just popping up at random.
It is also possible you are repeatedly coming back into contact with a contaminated surface. Even if blisters break, the fluid in the blisters is not related to the plant oil itself. These blisters are just the reaction caused by the body’s defense mechanism against the oil. Simply scratching the rash will not spread it around your body.
How to Prevent Contact with Poisonous Plants
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