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Leaves Of Three...

It's not just a summer itch - that red, blistered rash from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac can irritate your skin at any time of year. The poison plants can also reach your skin in more than one way, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

The three plants all contain the oil called urushiol, which quickly penetrates the skin and causes a reaction. The severity of the reaction depends on how sensitive you are to the toxin.

Anything that touches the plant - pets, sneakers, toys, yard tools - can pass the oil on to your skin. Even a dead plant is not safe. Even if the plant is burned, the smoke will carry the oil and can blow onto your skin.


Usually you will begin to see the first signs of a reaction 24 to 36 hours after making contact with the oil. A common misconception is that rashes from urushiol can spread if the blisters on the skin break. Once the affected area has been properly cleaned to remove the oil, the rash will not spread, and is not contagious.

The best way to prevent getting a poison plant rash is to learn what the culprits look like.

Poison sumac is a tall shrub that usually has seven to thirteen leaves on each stem.


Poison ivy and poison oak are typically vine-like plants with three leaves. However, they can have up to five leaves. They also can take on different forms depending on the area of the country in which you live. To be certain, check with your local garden center to find out what plants to avoid.

If you do come in contact with these plants, the only thing to do is let nature take its course --usually, about two weeks of itching and redness. However, you can relieve the irritation using cold compresses or calamine lotion. A more sever case may require a visit to the doctor.

For more information on poison plants, see the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay

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