Toxicodendron vernix is better known as poison sumac, a woody shrub or small tree that is usually found in damp areas. It grows in swamps, wetlands or even where the root or lower stems is just submerged. Poison sumac leaves are arranged in pairs with a single leaflet at the end. The stems are reddish and the plant also bears fruit with white or pale green colors, hanging downward from the stems like a cluster of berries. Poison sumac, however, is rare compared to poison ivy and poison oak, and it is yet to be determined as the most toxic plant species.
What causes poison sumac rash?
Poison sumac rash is caused whenever you come in contact with it by an oil found in this plant called urushiol, an organic compound with allergic reactions. You can contract a skin rash from touching or brushing against any part of this plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots and even if the plant is dead. Touching anything that has come in contact with this plant, such as clothing, sporting gear, gardening tools or pet fur can also cause a skin rash. If the oil is inhaled, which may occur if the plant is burned, it can lead to a dangerous lung irritation.
Symptoms of poison sumac rash
As soon as the oil touches your skin, it can cause infection just by scratching it. The usual symptoms are, itching, red streaks or general redness where the plant brushed against the skin, small bumps, and blisters that may leak fluid. The rash usually takes more than a week to show up the first time you have a reaction to the oil. It develops in a day or two on later contacts. The rash usually lasts about 10 days to 3 weeks but may last up to 6 weeks in more severe cases. If the oil is inhaled, symptoms may include trouble in breathing and wheezing.
Remedies and treatments of poison sumac rash
- Oral Ivy and other treatment products
- cool compresses with water or milk – helps alleviate the itch
- cucumber – calms the rash
- banana peel – cools the itch
- apple cider vinegar – kills the poison
- lemon juice – eliminates oil
- rubbing alcohol – prevents from spreading
How to prevent poison sumac rash?
To keep yourself safe from getting poison sumac rash, you need to:
- learn to recognize the poison sumac plant
- wear protective clothing
- remove or kill the plants
- clean contaminated objects
- apply a barrier cream
When should I seek medical help or see a doctor?
If someone is exposed to this plant or their oil, wash it with soap and water as soon as possible. An alternative is rubbing alcohol, as it can dissolve and remove the oils from the skin. Do not use bleach to cleanse rash from poison sumac! These areas are open wounds and bleach is a harsh substance that can damage the skin and slow the healing process. Do not attempt to treat severe reactions or to “wait it out” at home. Go immediately to the nearest emergency department if you are having trouble breathing, swelling of the face, mouth, neck or genitals, large blisters that ooze a lot of fluid, and when conditions worsen.