woman gardening and cutting plants

It’s summer time, but beware of certain plants as you enjoy the outdoors. Whether hiking in the woods or gardening—poison sumac, ivy and oak can be lurking close by.

Poison sumac has nine to 13 leaflets per stem and the leaves are round with pointed tips. It grows as a shrub or small tree.

Poison ivy has compound leaves with three leaflets that connect to a single stem. Young poison ivy leaves are light green and have serrated or toothed edges. Poison ivy grows as a vine or a shrub.

Poison oak has three leaflets that connect to a single stem. Its leaves resemble oak tree leaves. The bottom of the leaf is hairy and lighter in color. Poison oak grows as a vine or shrub.

If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac wash your skin right away with plenty of water and mild soap to remove the oil, called urushiol. This oil causes the itchy rash. Rinse often so that the soap doesn’t dry on the skin, and use a brush to clean under your nails. Remove and wash any clothing that may have the oil from the plant right away to prevent further exposure. Pets who come in contact with these plants can carry the oil on their fur and expose people as well.

If unable to avoid the plants wear long pants, long sleeves, and closed shoes to help keep the oil from getting on your skin. If gardening wear vinyl or leather gloves. Rubber, cotton or wool gloves do not provide protection. Do not burn these plants because the oil will attach itself to smoke particles.  If exposed to the smoke a rash can develop.

Contact your doctor if your symptoms worsen, if your reaction is widespread, doesn’t improve over time, affects your eyes or mouth or you develop a fever higher than 100 F.

If you need a physician, visit www.uoflphysicians.com/patient-care/find-physician or request an appointment online at www.uoflphysicians.com/request-appointment.

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Julie Knose

Julie Knose, CCMA, works in UofL Physicians Occupational Medicine, Safety and Health office. She has a bachelor's in sports science from Ohio University where she attended on an athletic scholarship for track and field. She graduated Cum Laude, received the Outstanding Graduate Award and Athlete Scholar Award. She is a former firefighter captain and EMT. She joined UofL Physicians in 2015. In her time off, she likes to venture out to street fairs, and festivals or take her three dogs for a walk.

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