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Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac and Poison Oak: Myth vs. Fact

Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak: Myth vs. Fact

Get the straight facts on poison ivy, sumac and oak! Urushiol oil, a very potent oil found in poison ivy, sumac and oak, is what causes skin rashes after exposure to these plants. Here is some additional information about poison ivy rash and blisters.

Click the links below to view myth vs. fact on poison ivy, sumac and oak. If you have other questions not shown, please contact Technical Product Support at 1-800-874-4755 or send an email by clicking here.

Poison Ivy

1. Myth: Poison ivy rash is contagious.
2. Myth: You can catch poison ivy simply by being near the plants.
3. Myth: Leaves of three, let them be.
4. Myth: Don't worry about dead poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plants.
5. Myth: Breaking the poison ivy rash blisters releases urushiol oil that can spread.
6. Myth: I've been in poison ivy many times and never broke out. I'm immune.


1. Myth: Poison ivy rash is contagious.
Fact: Rubbing the rash won’t spread poison ivy to other parts of your body (or to another person). You spread the rash only if urushiol oil—the sticky, resin-like substance that causes the rash—has been left on your hands.

2. Myth: You can catch poison ivy simply by being near the plants.
Fact: Direct contact with poison ivy is needed to release the urushiol oil. Stay away from forest fires, direct burning or anything else that may cause the oil to become airborne, such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc. You also want to be careful about touching clothes or tools that may have the oil on them.

3. Myth: Leaves of three, let them be.
Fact: Although poison ivy and poison oak have three leaves per cluster, poison sumac has seven to 13 leaves on a branch.

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4. Myth: Don't worry about dead poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plants.
Fact: Urushiol oil stays active on any surface, including dead poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak plants, for up to five years.

5. Myth: Breaking the poison ivy rash blisters releases urushiol oil that can spread.
Fact: The fluid inside the blister is mostly water. However, your wounds could become infected by scratching the rash and you may make the scarring worse. In very extreme cases, excessive fluid may need to be drained by a physician.

6. Myth: I've been in poison ivy many times and never broke out. I'm immune.
Fact: Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, so it’s a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes a long time for the poison ivy rash to show up—generally seven to 10 days.

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Additional Resources:
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