Poison ivy and poison oak are widespread across Missouri, but poison ivy is more common than poison oak in most areas across the state. You can find it in almost every city and county in Missouri. Read these helpful tips about poison ivy in case you come across it this summer!
- Poison ivy has 3 leaves on one stem. It can be a woody shrub or vine.
- The leaves can be shiny and symmetrical (the same on both sides).
- Each outside leaflet often has a distinctive notch on its lower half; while its upper half is relatively smooth. (Resembling pointed mittens).
- The stem is usually red.
- The berries of poison ivy are smooth and shiny.
Poison oak has only been spotted in a few places in Missouri. It can be found in dry, open areas.
Look out for these features of a poison oak plant:
- Poison oak leaves grow in sets of threes off one stem.
- Each leaf has a waxy or scalloped appearance; similar to oak leaves.
- There are distinct notches on each leaf.
- The berries of poison oak are hairy instead of smooth.
After touching poison ivy or poison oak, a red, itchy rash or small blisters can develop within as little as five minutes, but generally appears within 12-48 hours. People vary in their reactions to urushiol (the oil in the plant that causes itching and blisters). The best thing to do is wash the area with soap and water to remove the oil from the skin as soon as you realize you have touched or come in contact with the plant. Other home remedies to try include applying cool moist compresses, calamine lotion, and/or colloidal oatmeal baths. Depending on your symptoms, you may need an over-the-counter product to soothe the area and relieve the itching. Sometimes, in severe cases, a prescription medication will be prescribed by your doctor.
The oil from poison ivy or poison oak can remain active on clothing and footwear for one year. Always remember to wash any clothing that has come in contact with the plant in a washer with laundry detergent; this will not contaminate the washer. The fluid in the blisters will not cause the rash to spread. Contact with the plant’s oil that can be transferred on pet fur and in the smoke of burning poison ivy may cause a person to develop symptoms later. Avoidance of the plant is the best prevention!
Stay safe this summer and remember what to look for. If you or someone you know has been exposed to poison ivy or poison oak, call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.