Missouri's Most Irritating Plant

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

anything that has touched poison ivy. Clothing protects you from direct contact with the urushiol, but it can be a source of later contact. Unwashed clothing can contain active urushiol for as long as two years. If your clothes have contacted poison ivy, don't rub your hands on your clothes. If you have used gloves to pull out poison ivy, don't touch exposed skin or eyes with the gloves. Don't touch saws, shovels, or other tools that have been used to remove poison ivy until they have been cleaned.

Don't burn vines. The urushiol oil can withstand burning. It can be carried by the soot and dust in the smoke and cause irritation to eyes, nose, and throat. Remove all vines from firewood.

If you suspect your dog has been running through poison ivy, avoid handling your pet until you are confident no urushiol is on its coat.

Washing clothes with ordinary laundry soap will remove urushiol. Tell those doing your laundry that you may have encountered poison ivy. If you are washing clothes for someone who has been outdoors, handle the clothes with another clean cloth to avoid direct contact with your skin.


If you have a mild rash with slight irritation, applying cool, wet compresses will help. For more irritating rashes, a variety of over-thecounter topical corticosteroid remedies are available. Several companies have homeopathic products for poison ivy treatment and prevention. Several brands of antihistamines also provide temporary relief.

If you experience extreme itching or the exposure involves the eyes, throat, lungs, genitals or if infection sets in, you should seek medical attention. A severe reaction can be fatal if left untreated.

Poison Ivy Web Sites

  • Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center:
  • USDA Plants Profile:
  • Poison Ivy Basics Prevention, and Treatment (reviewed by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation):
  • US Food and Drug Administration:


Poison Oak

Poison oak mostly grows south of a line from Kansas to New Jersey. The plant is native to Missouri but has only been documented in Douglas, Mississippi, Ozark, Scott, Shannon, and Taney counties. Even within these counties, poison oak is rare. It's found primarily on dry, open glade habitats.

Poison oak also has three leaflets. Each has a rounded tip and resembles an oak leaf. Unlike poison ivy, both sides of all three leaflets of poison oak have distinct notches.

The surest way to positively identify poison oak is by its seeds and berries. Unlike the smooth, waxy berries

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