While walking along a forested path in our neighborhood last weekend I noticed the bright green foliage in the picture above. Thanks to my husband I soon learned its identity – POISON IVY! After a little research I quickly found out there is not only poison ivy, but also poison oak and poison sumac. It is the sap of the plant that reacts to the body. It you find that you have been exposed to any one of these plants, it is important to wash with cool water and soap as soon as possible. Water deactivates the oil which is a toxic resin called Urushiol. It is nonvolatile and dries quickly on your clothing, shoes, animals and tools. Surprisingly, it remains potent for up to a year. Evidence of contact with one of these poisonous plants, a skin rash, usually appears within two days, but may occur within eight hours. In rare cases, the eruption can be delayed by up to ten days. The skin usually heals in ten days.
A person does not have to come into physical contact with one of these plants to contract the rash. Exposure to smoke of a burning poison ivy plant can result in the dreaded rash. It is important to avoid inhaling smoke or contact of skin or clothing with smoke.
To clean clothing that has come into contact with one of these poisonous plants, wash as you normally wash them. The water will kill the resin. All items should be washed, including hiking boots and sleeping bags; back packs should be wiped down with water. REF: Jan Stone, First Nurse, 1998