Poison sumac 


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

An overview

A rare toxic tree from the genus Toxicodendron, which is closely related to poison ivy and poison oak plants.  It contains an organic compound called urushiol in higher concentration as compared to its counterparts.  These plants mainly grow along rivers and lakes and are native to southern or northeastern parts of the United States.  These trees are considerably taller and bigger as compared to poison ivy and poison oak.  These trees are known to grow up to 9 m tall.

The leaf has around 7 to 13 leaflets and measures around 5 to 10 cm long.  The leaf resembles the oval-to-oblong shape.  The leaf can have a reddish tint to it whereas the flowers are green in color.  The fruit has creamy white color and grows in clusters.  Studies have claimed that around 85% of the population is known to be allergic to the organic compound urushiol.  The allergic reactions caused by urushiol can occur anywhere between 24 to 72 hours.

How do I identify a poison sumac tree?

  • Poison sumac leavesPoison sumac trees can grow up to 9 meters tall (approximately 29 feet) and are mainly found in the coast of the United States.
  • These trees grow only in wet habitats and hence are found near lakes, rivers, canals, or streams.
  • They are characterized by bright green leaves and red stems. The leaves grow in a cluster of seven or 13.  Unlike their counterparts, they have smooth edges and do not have a saw-toothed edge.
  • The berries from the plant grow in bunches and are green during the summer and yellow during the winter.
  • All the parts of the tree contain the organic compound urushiol and humans can get a contact dermatitis just by touching any part of the plant.

Signs and Symptoms of Poison Sumac Reaction

The signs and symptoms of a poison sumac reaction are similar to what we experience with other toxic plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.  Some of the common signs and symptoms are discussed below:

  • Patches of red streaks and raised blisters are developed within 24 to 72 hours of exposure to the tree.
  • This is followed by skin dryness and persistent itchiness.
  • The affected area would become warm to touch with redness and swelling of the skin.
  • Fluid-filled blisters may form after several days and can also ooze out the fluid.
  • The fluid-filled blisters may leave a scar and discoloration after they heal.
  • You may also experience increased sensitivity to sunlight, heat, as well as cold.
  • The rash can persist anywhere from one to three weeks. After a week of exposure, the symptoms of rash would be at a peak and can cause the worst symptoms.
  • The rash is not considered to be contagious and cannot spread from one person to another unless the organic compound is transferred to another person.

Causes & Risk Factors associated with a Poison Sumac Rash

As discussed earlier, it should be noted that the allergic reaction caused by the contact of this toxic plant is from the urushiol oil present in these plants.  These organic compounds are produced by these plants as a defense mechanism for their survival.  Since plants and trees are not capable to fend off a potential threat, they produce these compounds so that the animals do not feed on them.  Unfortunately, this powerful compound seems to be highly allergic to humans and lead to allergic reactions.  Some of the common risk factors associated with developing this kind of rash are discussed below.

  • Spending time outdoors when going on a picnic to wet areas and exposing much of your skin.
  • People working in forestry and agriculture have a high risk of exposure.
  • Young adults and teenagers such as outdoor enthusiast who are camping or hiking.
  • Individuals suffering from health conditions such as environmental allergies, eczema, as well as extremely sensitive skin.
  • Having a close relative with a history of previous allergic reactions.
  • Having a weakened immune system that is caused by medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders.

There are numerous materials and tools that can harbor the toxic compound urushiol.  Since this compound is found in oil form they can be retained in several materials and a very small quantity is sufficient to trigger a reaction.  Some of the materials that can retain urushiol include equipment used for gardening such as gloves, shovels, as well as garden hoses.  They may also be retained in cotton clothing, shoes, socks, as well as hats.  A pet’s fur may retain the oil as well as furniture, doorknobs, and sports equipment.

Conventional Treatments for Poison Sumac Reactions

Even a mild contact to any part of the plant can cause rash accompanied by itching, warmth, and swelling to the area.  A mild or moderate rash due to poison sumac will not need any specific medical treatment, but you may need to visit your doctor or go to the emergency room if the allergic reaction is severe such as affecting the face and areas close to the eye.  Hypersensitive individuals may experience anaphylactic shock and require immediate treatment in the emergency room.  Your doctor would prescribe antihistamine medications and in some cases even steroids if the rash is severe.

These medications are known to control the reaction of the immune system.  A corticosteroid shot is administered when the patient experiences a severe reaction from poison sumac.  Some of the commonly used corticosteroids are prednisone and triamcinolone.  In some cases, creams containing antihistamine or hydrocortisone are prescribed to calm down the reaction.

These medications do not guarantee that the rash would not return again when you are exposed to urushiol again.  It is by all means that you are going to experience an allergic reaction with any contact of urushiol oil.  Individuals suffering an anaphylactic shock would require hospitalization in addition to the above treatment in order to protect their airways.

Natural Ways to Prevent & Treat Poison Sumac

Important points to remember

  • If you are living near a watery place like rivers or lakes, try to eliminate any suspicious plants from your surroundings.
  • Wear protective clothing while going outdoors.
  • If you realize that you have come with contact, wash your skin immediately with soap and water in order to remove the urushiol oil from the skin.
  • You would need to thoroughly wash the clothes and equipment.
  • Apply appropriate cream or oil to soothe the skin.

Keep a watch of your surroundings and eliminate suspicious plants

If you are residing in wet areas near the river or lake, it is common to have plants and trees grow around your surroundings.  Try to educate yourself to identify these toxic plants and make a point to eliminate them.  When planning to cut these plants, make sure to cover yourself thoroughly to avoid contact with the plant.  Smother the plant by cutting them close to the ground to avoid re-growth.  You will need to cover the plant adequately after cutting since the plant would still carry the urushiol oil in them.  Never try to burn these toxic plants, as the toxic compound can spread through the air and if anybody inhales them, it can cause severe breathing complications.

Wear protective clothing and cover up exposed skin

It is important to wear protective clothing and cover up your skin in order to prevent any contact with this toxic plant.  It is quite common for youngsters to wear short clothes outdoors and especially when visiting watery places.  Since these are the areas conducive for poison sumac to grow, people wearing short clothes become easily exposed to these plants.  Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, full-length pants, closed shoes, and gloves would be a better idea when visiting such places.

Wash your skin thoroughly immediately after contact

The toxic compound urushiol would soak into your skin immediately following contact with the plant.  However, studies have found that there are several minutes available for you before experiencing an allergic reaction with the assumption that you do not have hypersensitive skin.  You should try to wash the skin thoroughly with soap and water immediately after coming in contact with the poison sumac plant.  Nowadays commercial washes that are more powerful than soaps are available in the market which can be used to remove urushiol completely.  If you do not have these washes you can go ahead and wash it with a normal soap since it seems to work in the majority of cases.  It should be noted that doing this procedure would not guarantee you that you will not have an allergic reaction since some of the urushiols might have already seeped into the skin.

Disinfect equipment and clothes

There is a high possibility that your clothes and equipment would carry this toxic compound and hence it is necessary to clean your clothes and equipment thoroughly before using it again.  Washing these clothes and equipment right away would be the best option since it can eliminate the toxic compound immediately.

Apply a soothing cream or oil to the affected skin

It will be highly tempting to pick or scratch at the affected area due to the severe itching and tingling sensation following an allergic reaction.  Since picking and scratching can cause infections, it is advised to apply a soothing cream containing antihistamine or hydrocortisone to provide relief from itching.  You could try some essential oil that can provide a calming effect on the skin.  Some of the essential oils used to treat skin conditions are discussed below.

  • Lavender essential oil diluted with coconut oil can soothe irritation and fight infection.
  • Apple cider vinegar, honey, as well as baking soda can be used to provide relief from inflammation and irritation.
  • Colloidal oatmeal bath is a traditional remedy to stop oozing.
  • Aloe vera is again helpful in providing a soothing effect to the skin and treat the itching.
  • Dry skin blisters and itching can be treated with bentonite clay.

Precautions Regarding Poison Sumac

Generally, allergic reaction associated with poison sumac is not a serious issue and would dissipate on its own.  Certain cases require medical treatment and individuals who are hypersensitive need immediate medical care.  Signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include a rash that covers a large portion of the body, fever, nausea, and vomiting, shortness of breath, severe soreness, as well as swollen lymph nodes.  Immediate medical attention needs to be rendered in such cases and it is highly risky to delay medical treatment with these symptoms.

 

 

 

 

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L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
gout diet purines
Gout Diet : Get relief from painful joints by eating these foods Are you a victim of this painful condition? Are medications providing only short relief? Find a list of…
GERD heartburn
Heartburn: What are the exact symptoms and the best home remedies? There are easy home remedies for heartburn, which not only acts as a first aid when you experience…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
ASTtest-liver
AST- Aspartate Aminotransferase Test AST test is a blood test that is used to measure the level of a particular liver enzyme…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
sodium blood test
Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
iron deficiency profile
Iron Deficiency Profile An iron deficiency profile is a battery of blood tests which are performed in order to determine the…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
biotin for hair
Biotin: One-stop-shop for shiny hair and an active body! What is common to bananas, eggs, sweet potatoes, and liver? These are delicious and rich in biotin ;…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
beta hcg test
Beta hCG Test A Beta hCG test measures the level of human gonadotropin hormones present in the blood that is primarliy…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
oral hygiene tips
6 shocking consequences of bad oral hygiene (and how to avoid them) Did you know bad breath is not just turning off, but also harms your body in ways you…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
How can berberine supplements help you live longer and healthier? Berberine is a turmeric look-alike herbal extract that is credited with numerous health benefits ranging from diabetes cure…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an enema could actually…
Inhale oxygen, exhale worries: The top breathing exercises and how to perform them Performing the breathing exercise is like becoming mindful of how you breathe.  Here is a list of breathing…
glucose-tolerance
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test – GTT Glucose tolerance test (or Oral GTT) is used to detect the onset of diabetes or prediabetes conditions. It…
Strep throat pain
Anti-Streptolysin-O Test The ASO or Anti-Streptolysin-O is a blood test designed to check for the presence of streptococcus bacterial infection…
cystatin C
Cystatin C Test Cystatin C is a specific single-chain protein that is found in body fluids and is a biomarker for…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make you smarter and…
aspartame or sugar
Aspartame – Hidden truths about this storm in a teacup Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, has gone under the scanner on several occasions for allegedly doing more harm than…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
DHEA wrinkles
DHEA: Now get unbelievable age defiance with this wonder hormone! DHEA is known popularly as the age-defying hormone. This supplement is widely used to slow down aging and…
Oil of Oregano: The one-stop essential oil you’ve been looking for Are you plagued by a weak immune system? High body inflammation accompanied by pain and infections? Why not…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for? Native to the beautiful South Pacific islands, Kava is a famous beverage rooted in the local culture. It…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
leptospira Igm test
Leptospira-IgM Test A Leptospira-IgM test is a blood test which is carried out to detect anti-Leptospira IgM antibody. Leptospirosis is…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
The Shepherd's diet
Facts about the Shepherd’s diet Kristina Wilds promoted Shepherd's diet, a Christian-based diet that highlights Jesus Christ's diet as mentioned in the Bible.
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…

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