Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: What to Watch Out For


Photo from kidshealth.org

These pesky poisonous plants can put a damper on summer fun. Be sure to educate your kids so they can avoid these summertime hazards.


Seven out of ten people are allergic to these plants and break out in rashes upon contact. The rashes are caused by an allergic reaction to an oil called urushiol found on the leaves, roots, and stems.

What to look for:

  • Poison ivy leaves are characterized by three or five serrated-edge, pointed leaflets. It grows as a vine or low, free-standing plant in the East, Midwest, and South and as a shrub in the far northern and western United States.
  • Poison sumac grows as a shrub or small tree and has seven to thirteen staggered leaflets with one on the tip of the plant.  It's found mainly in the Eastern United States, primarily in swamps.
  • Poison oak has three leaves and grows as a shrub in the East and the West, where it is most prevalent.  The plant produces whitish flowers from August to November that dry and can remain for months. 

Along with educating your kids on what these plants look like, it is also good to dress them in long sleeves if they plan to be venturing out into the woods, as well as applying a poison ivy/oak/sumac barrier cream to exposed areas. And just to be on the safe side, be sure to wash exposed areas thoroughly with lukewarm water and soap to remove any access urushiol oil when they come back in.

And remember, "Leaves of three, let it be!"

What are some summertime hazards you try to watch out for?

Read More >