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Posted on: June 9, 2018

Leaves of 3, let it be!

poison ivy

While that old saying holds true for poison ivy, poison oak and sumac are entirely different.

Poison ivy does have leaves of three, one in the center and one on each side. Leaves are shiny with smooth or slightly notched edges.

Poison oak looks similar to poison ivy but the leaves are larger and more rounded like an oak leaf. Leaves are textured with a hairy surface. They can be in groups of three, five or seven leaves.

Poison sumac leaves grow in clusters of 7 to 13 leaves, with a leave by itself at the end. Poison sumac only grows in swampy areas so Kansas should be safe from this plant.

How to avoid the nasty rash from poison ivy or oak:
Wear long sleeves and long pants when working in wooded areas or other likely spots for these plants. If you've come in contact with one of these plants, wash the area with lukewarm water and soap (Dawn dish soap is a good choice) to wash off the urushiol, the sticky, long-lasting oil that comes from these plants. Scrub vigorously. It can take 24-72 hours for a reaction to the urushiol to appear. The rash, which looks like patches or streaks of red, raised blisters, generally peaks in a week but can last up to three weeks.

Don't burn wood that has had either of the plant growing on it as you can breathe in the chemicals released by the urushiol and affect your eyes, nose or lungs.

A lotion that contains bentoquatam can act as a barrier on your skin and help to keep the urushiol from "sticking" to you.

If you've come in contact with poison ivy, be sure to wash or throw away your clothes, depending on your reaction to the plant. Don't forget to clean your shoes and any tools, like pruners or chain saws, as the oil can stick to those surfaces. 

The rash is not contagious. If the rash gets near your eyes or is widespread over your body, seek medical attention. Severe reactions such as nausea, fever, shortness of breath, extreme soreness, swollen lymph nodes, severe swelling, or faintness, call for emergency medical treatment.  

Don't forget your pets. While their fur protects them from the urushiol, they can transfer it to you. If your pet is in an area known to have poison ivy, bath the pet with soap and be sure to wear gloves. 

Information courtesy WebMD

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