How to Protect Yourself From Poison Ivy

Follow these tips on identifying and avoiding the poisonous plants you might come across while in the vegetable garden or flower bed.

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Gardeners, got an itch? It might be an allergic reaction to poison ivy, oak or sumac.

The skin and itch experts at the Lanacane Itch Information Center offer some tips on identifying and avoiding the poisonous plants you might come across while in the vegetable garden or flower bed:

  • What to look for: Poison ivy has three smooth or toothed leaflets. The middle one has a longer stalk. Leaves are reddish when they emerge in the spring, but turn green during the summer. Poison oak also has three leaflets, while poison sumac consists of two rows of seven to 13 leaflets.

  • How to prepare: Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants if you anticipate having to work in an area where these plants could be growing.

  • If you come in contact with these plants: If possible, quickly wash your skin with soap and warm water within 15 minutes of contact. This may prevent or minimize a skin reaction.

  • Sanitize tools and clothing: Urushiol oil from the poisonous plants, if kept dry and cool, can remain potent for up to five years on contaminated garden tools and clothing. Wash all items immediately after use.

  • Home remedy: An ice compress placed directly on the skin temporarily soothes itching and related swelling.

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