Five Ways to Avoid Poison Ivy and Oak Rash

By Lisa  |  Friday, March 9, 2012  |  , , , ,  |  24 comments

How to avoid poison ivy and oakA common question we hear is, "How to avoid poison ivy and oak rash in the first place?" This is a really common question if you have had to deal with it several times in one year.

So, here are five of the best ways to avoid poison ivy and oak rash in the first place:

1) Understand how you get the rash so you'll understand why you are getting it. The cause of poison ivy, oak and sumac rash is your body's allergic reaction to oil produced by the plant called urushiol (pronounced oo-roo-she-all).  Urushiol is found in every fiber of the plants and will cause the rash in most people if it gets on the skin and is not removed.  Urushiol attaches itself to skin and becomes extremely difficult to remove after about 15 minutes, even with soap and water.  Tecnu Original and Tecnu Extreme are cleansers that unlock the bond of urushiol with the skin to remove the oil.

2) When vacationing to outdoor recreation areas, be sure to stay on established paths and trails. Families love to head to favorite outdoor hiking, camping and boating areas in the spring and summer.  Children, and some young-at-heart adults, like to wander down paths that have not been heavily used or regularly maintained.  Unfortunately some of those trails are overgrown with vegetation that may contain poison ivy, oak and sumac plants.  Local, State and Federal Parks have established trails that are marked clearly, so stay on those and you should be fine.

3) Learn what the plants and bushes really look like in an outdoor setting and avoid them. Many people know what the leaf of each plant looks like but few know what those leaves look like as part of a bush.  Also, the plants can change color during the season varying from green to bright red.  Poison ivy and oak have leaflets of three petals, while poison sumac has leaflets of seven to thirteen.  Sometimes the plants have clumps of berries visible, and sometimes they do not.  The more familiar you are with the plants, the less chance you'll have contacting the rash. See our photos of poison ivy, oak and sumac for reference.

Leaves of three, let them be.

4) Wear proper clothing covering as much exposed skin as possible. Although the rash causing oil from the plants can permeate through thin clothing, you are much better off when you cover up.  Wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants if it's comfortable.  Some very sensitive people have been known to tape over the area where gloves and long shirt sleeves come together since this is a prime area for the rash to start.

Remember that urushiol will attach to any type of clothing, gloves, boots, equipment, tools, etc. and those items will be contaminated with the oil. This can result in you coming in contact with the poison ivy or oak oil later when you touch these items and possibly cause a rash. Therefore, be sure to wash any item that may have come in contact with the plants. Tecnu Original is the only poison ivy and oak cleanser on the market you can use to remove urushiol from all of these surfaces.

5) Remove urushiol from you skin as soon as possible after being exposed to the plants. The best way to prevent a poison ivy, oak or sumac rash is to not have the rash causing urushiol on your skin. Tecnu Original and Tecnu Extreme are designed to be used within 2-8 hours after exposure, but the sooner you use it the better the results. Know that every person's reaction to urushiol is different depending on their body's sensitivity to the oil. Also multiple encounters with urushiol may result in a different outcome for the same person. Some people become more sensitive to poison ivy, oak and sumac the more often they are exposed to the plants.

The intention of this blog is to be an informational resource for our customers. We are not medical professionals and are not distributing medical advice. Any questions you have about your health should be directed to a physician. We want to hear from you and welcome your comments - please note all comments submitted will be moderated and we reserve the right to refuse to publish any comment that may be negative, contain foul language, suggest medical advice, or offer tips that may be harmful to our readers. It is not our intention to defame, purge, discriminate or humiliate any party directly or indirectly in any way. We do not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any information or content contained on, distributed through, or linked, downloaded or accessed from any of the services contained on this website. If you have a question or concern that must be replied to right away, please call 1-800-482-4464.

24 comments for “Five Ways to Avoid Poison Ivy and Oak Rash”

  1. Posted 6/9/2012 at 8:22:26 AM
    Gravatar of Chris Haig

    When visiting the United States I bought your scrub product it was a true God send. My problem now is I have it again and the scrub is gone, I was hoping I could get this product in Ontario Canada. Please Please leed me to a place where I can purchase it. Thank you

  2. Posted 6/12/2012 at 10:56:08 AM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Unfortunately Tecnu Extreme is not available in Canada. The only product we sell in Canada is the Original Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser and you can find it through Bescot Healthcare,

  3. Posted 7/19/2012 at 7:24:43 AM
    Gravatar of teresa smith

    I am covered in posion oak.... where can I buy this in Anniston, AL?

  4. Posted 7/30/2012 at 12:20:14 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Tecnu is available at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens which all have stores in your city.

  5. Posted 7/18/2013 at 5:49:35 AM
    Gravatar of Gail

    Is there a product I can put on my skin to avoid getting poison sumac and/ or poison ivy?

  6. Posted 7/30/2013 at 11:30:39 AM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Yes there are barrier creams on the market, but we do not make one. Please remember if you use a barrier the poison plant oil will still be sitting on top of that barrier cream and it needs to be washed off with a cleanser, like Tecnu Original, to remove the oil. Over the years we have found that our customers choose not to use a barrier and just wash with Tecnu to remove the oil after exposure.

  7. Posted 3/22/2014 at 7:47:23 AM
    Gravatar of Hannah

    My daughter a sixth grader who went to out door school she fell into poison oak but she saidshe went to the health lodge and used tecnu 2 hours later will she get a rash and how do I handle it?

  8. Posted 4/2/2014 at 11:55:23 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser can remove urushiol oil before the rash begins if used within 8 hours after exposure; however, it is not a guarantee a rash won't appear. This depends upon the degree of exposure to urushiol oil, the person's sensitivity to the poison oil, and how well the skin was cleansed with Tecnu. If the rash does appear, Calagel Medicated Anti Itch Gel or Tecnu Rash Relief Spray can be used to treat the itching, burning, & oozing (if any) caused by the rash.

  9. Posted 4/23/2014 at 9:08:21 AM
    Gravatar of Amanda

    Is it safe to use Tecnu Original even if you are not 100% sure you came in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac? We go camping on an island every year and I broke out terribly from coming in contact with poison sumac and would rather not repeat the experience!

  10. Posted 4/30/2014 at 3:37:47 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Yes, you can use Tecnu Original is a cleanser and you can use it as often as you like. As a matter of fact, one of the ways we recommend using it is to wash with Tecnu Original when you think you might possibly be exposed to the plant. This will remove the rash causing oil, hopefully before it causes a rash.

  11. Posted 6/8/2014 at 5:04:29 PM
    Gravatar of aimee

    How do you know for a fact that you came in contact with poison oak,ivy,or sumac?

  12. Posted 6/10/2014 at 10:17:24 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Aimee: Typically, signs of contact with urushiol (poison oil from poison oak and ivy plants) are: redness, itching, swelling, & raised bumps or blisters from which clear liquid oozes and dries yellow. If you have not had a reaction, but think you may have come into contact with the oil, you can was with Tecnu Original to remove the urushiol. If you are experiencing the symptoms just mentioned, you can find relief with our Calagel Medicated Anti-Itch Gel, Rash Relief Spray, or Corticool 1% hydrocortisone gel.

  13. Posted 7/11/2014 at 9:54:04 AM
    Gravatar of Hayden

    If you throw your clothes in the washing machine with detergent, will they be good to go with no residue?

  14. Posted 7/15/2014 at 9:00:55 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Hayden: We recommend washing contaminated clothing through two cycles in the washing machine, in warm/hot water, with a de-greasing detergent such as Tide® to remove urushiol.

  15. Posted 4/17/2015 at 11:14:37 AM
    Gravatar of sisay

    poison ivy can be real dangerous

  16. Posted 4/28/2015 at 3:41:39 PM
    Gravatar of Sam pederson

    Is it possible to use Technu as a protective barrier against the plant? I'm a mountain biker, live in Santa Cruz and it grows everywhere. Nearly impossible to avoid it, and I'm often out for many hours at a time with no chance to wash. Any information to help me is greatly appreciated.

  17. Posted 5/11/2015 at 9:14:58 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Sisay: Yes, it can be!

  18. Posted 6/19/2015 at 11:14:54 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Sam, Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser is not indicated for use as a pre-exposure lotion or protective barrier. Our recommendation would be to wear long sleeves and pants (if possible) when you bike, and to wash up immediately after with Tecnu to remove the rash-causing oil, urushiol. You can also use Tecnu to wipe down your bike as well!

  19. Posted 8/5/2015 at 9:10:02 AM
    Gravatar of Dani

    We are going camping with kids in Big Sur. Apparently our campground has a ton of poison oak. My daughter's doctor prescribed anti-itch cream and prednisone for a more severe reaction. Can we use tecnu products with our other products prescribed by doctor such as the hydrocortisol cream etc.? Or could that cause another reaction? Thanks!

  20. Posted 8/5/2015 at 12:18:59 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Dani - Big Sur, that sounds like a blast! As for using our products in addition to what the Dr. prescribed, we would recommend checking with him/her before doing so. There is always a possibility of a reaction when mixing topical products or medications. For example, Tecnu® Original shouldn't be used for at least 3 days after using a topical hydrocortisone. The reason being, cortisones thin the top layer of skin, so using a strong detergent such as Tecnu® can cause further redness and irritation to already sensitive skin. We hope this helps, have a great trip!

  21. Posted 9/22/2015 at 9:50:34 AM
    Gravatar of Karie

    I am a big fan of Tecnu!! I used to get a bad case of poison ivy after each hiking trip. Now I use Tecnu as a body wash (after throwing my clothes in the laundry with a cap full of shampoo to wash the oils out). I don't travel without it because we always find a place to explore while on the road.

  22. Posted 10/8/2015 at 7:33:56 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Karie, so glad Tecnu® is there for you when you adventure!

  23. Posted 10/11/2015 at 1:56:23 PM
    Gravatar of Shirley

    I have poison ivy in my yard and always get it every year. Somebody told me if l take a benadryl before going around it l will not catch it. Is this a true fact ??

  24. Posted 10/16/2015 at 9:56:19 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Shirley, whether or not you take oral Benadryl before exposure to urushiol, if you come into direct contact with the oil and you have a sensitivity to it, there is a chance you'll break out. A better method would be to wash immediately upon coming indoors with a cleanser designed to remove urushiol such as Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser.

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