Beautiful but toxic, poison ivy and oak in the fall

By Lisa  |  Tuesday, October 11, 2011  |  , ,  |  2 comments

Poison Ivy and Oak in the Fall

Red poison ivy in the fall

dead poison ivy vine

Leafless poison ivy vine

Fall is here and the leaves are turning pretty shades of red and orange. Soon they will begin falling off of the trees... and poison plants.

One of the myths about poison ivy, oak and sumac is that the rash is caused by only the plant leaves. However, all parts of the plant, including the stems and roots, contain urushiol. Urushiol is the plant's oil that bonds to your skin causing the miserable rash.

During the fall, poison ivy and oak can turn from its bright green color to yellow/orange and bright red. The plant can look quite beautiful this time of year.

After the leaves turn red, they will fall off the vines. Without its "leaflets of three" identifying poison ivy and oak can become quite difficult.

So here are some tips to stay poison ivy and oak rash-free in the fall:

  • If you have seen the poison plants in an area in the past, they are most likely still there. It is best to error on the side of caution. Especially since poison ivy and oak plants are very hearty and difficult to get rid of.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands when handling any outdoor plants, especially if you have seen poison ivy or oak in that area before.
  • After being in contact with outdoor plants, clean your skin with a cleanser like Tecnu to remove any rash-causing oil that may be on your skin. You can also use Tecnu to clean any clothing, tools or equipment that may have the poison plant oil on them.
  • If your pet runs through an unfamiliar area outdoors, give them a bath to remove any irritants that may be on their fur.
  • If you are camping or hiking in an unfamiliar area, ask if poison ivy or oak is common there.
  • Don't touch leafless vines that are wrapped around trees.  It is common for poison ivy to grow around a tree.

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2 comments for “Beautiful but toxic, poison ivy and oak in the fall”

  1. Posted 4/16/2012 at 8:39:39 AM
    Gravatar of Bonnie Hawk

    Is it true that burning poison ivy can cause urushiol to become airborne in the smoke? My brother was in an area where underbrush was being burned, and he developed a body-wide rash including eye inflammation.

  2. Posted 4/16/2012 at 4:18:05 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Yes, if poison ivy or oak are burned the urushiol can be carried in the smoke. If you think you have been exposed to burning poison ivy or oak you should consult a doctor.

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