By now you should have noticed that poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are everywhere. They grow in wooded places across Texas. Poison Ivy and poison oak grow as vines or shrub and poison sumac is usually a shrub or tree. They say "leaves of three, leave it be" but that only applies to poison ivy and poison oak. Poison Sumac leaves grow in clusters of 7-13 leaves with one by itself at the end.
Technically speaking, the plants aren't really poisonous but rather carry a sticky oil called urushiol, that causes the itchy, blistering rash after it comes in contact with the skin. Even the slightest contact like brushing up against the leaves, can cause a reaction to the skin. The rash usually shows up in the first 24-72 hours, peaks within a week, and can last for up to 3 weeks.
In rare cases, people develop a more severe reaction to poison ivy called "Black-Spot Poison Ivy," which causes black spots or streaks to the skin. This is caused when an uncommon reaction between the urushiol sap and exposure to oxygen and moisture, comes in contact with the skin.
To protect yourself, consider the following:
- Keep your skin covered to avoid contact with these plants.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, and closed shoes if you're in an area where they grow
- Urushiol begins to stick within minutes. If you know you’ve made contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, wash the area with lukewarm water and soap ASAP.