Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac - members of the "rhus" family
Poison Ivy & Oak... Leaves of three - let it be!
Sumac has 7-13 leaves and is usually found in the wetlands
Urushiol oil in the sap causes irritation
Urushiol is the #1 irritant. Including all others COMBINED!
A quarter ounce could give the whole world a rash! But...only 60 to 85% of the population is affected by the antigen "Urushiol"
Roughly 10% have severe reaction & 10% have no reaction
Sensitivity typically declines in individuals in their thirties
Sap carrying the antigen oil urushiol does not reside on the outer plant
Sap is exposed by snapped branches, leaves and bug eating holes in the leaves
Dead leaves continue to carry the oil for years
Course of irritation
Redness usually occurs in 12-48 hours, possibly as soon as a few hours or as long as 2 weeks depending on your sensitivity
Blisters break approximately 5 days after incurring the rash
Fluid in the blisters does not cause spreading
Spreading does not occur once the antigen has been absorbed (3-15 minutes)
Most cases last 12 to 15 days
Medical assistance may not be necessary
Definitely seek medical assistance if any of the following occur:
If blistering continues to ooze longer than two weeks
If a fever develops
If lymph nodes under your arms, neck or groin - swell or become sore
Possibly other symptoms too
May be washed off within 15 minutes of contact
Best washed off quicker as the antigen is usually absorbed within 3 minutes
After approximately 15 minutes you cannot wash it off but hey you can't transfer it either!
Use lots of running cold water to wash it off
Hot water and soap help eliminate the sap quicker though they wash away your skins natural defense which in turn opens the pores for more absorbtion
Pets tend to venture off trail then transfer the antigen to the owner. Animals are typically less sensitive to urushiol.
Beware of sap underneath your fingernails - everywhere you scratch could become affected. Remember it's the sappy oil containing the antigen urushiol that can be spread, not the oozy puss from wounds.
Do not burn leaves, even dead leaves as the soot could transfer the oil
Remedies & such
Cool water is the best remedy, even the suggestions below cause the skin pores to open up which in turn may let in more antigen
Calamine lotion, baking soda (add a little water to form a thick paste) or soaking in waters with Epsom salts may relief some of the itching. Also, an antihistamine such as Benadryl may help. Note: none of these will cure, just ease the effects
Vaccines are available, though rare - must be taken before exposure