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Poison Sumac Rash

What is Poison Sumac?

Poison Sumac is a small woody type of tree which grows up to nine meters. The poison sumac plant is a deciduous shrub mainly found in and around wetlands and also in hardwood forests and pinewood forests. Grows in shady areas, the plant may also climb up like a vine.


How does Poison Sumac Plant look like?

The plant has peculiar stems reddish in color. The poison sumac rash has leaves with three separate leaflets commonly, however in rare cases, the plant can have leaves with up to 9 leaflets, where each of these can be one to four inches long. The leaves of the plant have elongated leaflets which are smooth, have a texture which is particularly velvety along with smooth edges and V-shaped leafs.

Poison Sumac Plant Picture
Picture 1 – Poison Sumac Plant
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During the spring season, the leaves of the plant turn into red or green and produce small white, yellow or green flowers which grow in clusters. During the summer season, the Poison sumac plant constitutes of dark green colored and glossy leaves and produces red pigmented berries which are extremely toxic and poisonous. As the summer season moves towards its end, the leaves of the plant turn into vibrant red and orange, nature’s way of warning against danger. In some cases, fruits colored in ivory-white or gray color may be attached to the plant.

All portions of the shrub are proven to contain a resin called Urushiol. The toxicity of the poison sumac plant is considered to be such that it has been declared the most toxic plant species. The chemical composition of the toxic poison is a side chain containing C13 molecules. The impact of the poison is considered to be life threatening and may also lead to a medical condition called Pulmonary edema.

What is Poison Sumac Rash?

All the constituents of the plant Poison Sumac contain an oil called Urushiol. Even the dead plant of a Poison Sumac creates rashes when it comes in contact.  In few rare cases, the person affected by the Poison Sumac Rash may not show sensitivity to the oil Urushiol but once exposed may develop sensitivity.

The resin, Urushiol secreted from the poison sumac plant when comes in contact with human skin tends to create extreme irritation and inflammation on the skin. The oil of Urushiol acts as an allergen which gets absorbed into the skin when it comes in contact with the skin. The skin responds by an itchy and burning allergic reaction. The skin turns reddish along with blisters and suffers from rashes, hence Poison Sumac Rash.

What are the Symptoms of Poison Sumac Rash?

The symptoms of a poison sumac rash commonly start appearing 8-48 hours after the initial contact with the plant and absorbing of the oil Urushiol and end up lasting for several weeks. The rash so created is not contagious in itself, but the presence of the oil Urushiol enhances the tendency of the rash to spread. The oil may get attached to the clothing, shoes or other objects attached to the body of the affected human. Common symptoms of the rash are:

  • Unnerving itching
  • Continuous burning sensation on the skin
  • Watery blisters
  • Redness along with peculiar striped rashes
  • Swelling and inflammation

The rash can affect the daily life of the affected person, depending on where the rash has affected and how much it spreads.

What is the Treatment for Poison Sumac Rash?

Once someone’s skin comes in contact with Poison Sumac, the first reaction should be to clean the skin and get rid of all the oil from the skin, irrespective of whether the rashes have started appearing on the skin or not. Washing of all exposed surfaces, inclusive of clothing and shoes should be done with soap and cool water. Use of hot water should be avoided since hot water enhances the rashes and spreads it. The cool water used should be accompanied by agents such as alcohol, specialized poison plants washes, degreasing soap such as soaps used for dishwashing and detergents. The agents should be used to rinse and rub the surfaces which were exposed.

Special attention should be given to the cleaning of the skin under the fingernails to control and check the spreading of the toxic oils to eyes and other parts of the body. There is no definite cure for the rash. However, certain measures can be taken to reduce the discomfort caused by the rashes. The cures can be:

  1. Hydrocortisone creams
  2. Topical anesthetics such as menthol or benzocaine
  3. calamine lotion
  4. Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

The rashes can also be reduced by taking regular oatmeal baths. Compress dressing or wet dressing may be effectively used to soothe the skin. Medical solutions which fight against poison plants should be used and a dressing should be immersed in it. Then the dressing should be applied to the affected surfaces of the skin for 15-30 minutes. The blisters do not contain any portions of the toxic oil Urushiol, but the popping of blisters should be avoided. To avoid the accidental popping of the blisters, a loose bandage may also be tied around the skin affected by the rashes.

Complications related to Poison Sumac Rash

The skin affected from the rashes creates an unnerving sensation of itching. On prolonged rubbing of the rash affected skin, the redness, pain, swelling, inflammation, pus and oozing from the blisters is enhanced.

Another effect of the Poison Sumac oil Urushiol is Pulmonary Edema. The Burning of the plant releases fumes along with smoke which when inhaled causes similar irritation and inflammation on the inner linings of the lungs and subsequently lead to respiratory problems. On inhaling the smoke, the medical condition called Pulmonary edema occurs which subsequently leads to the entrance of fluid in the alveoli. The fluid accumulates the tissues and air spaces in the lungs which corrupt the air exchange process of the body and leads to respiratory failure. Symptoms to Pulmonary Edema caused by poison sumac are lung irritation, wheezing, frequent problems while breathing and coughing. The medical condition can enhance in itself and lead to cardiac arrest as well.

Poison Sumac Rash Pictures

Image of Poison Sumac Rash
Picture 2 – Poison Sumac Rash
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Photo of Poison Sumac Rash
Picture 3 – Poison Sumac Rash
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Pic of Poison Sumac Rash
Picture 4 – Poison Sumac Rash
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Picture of Poison Sumac Rash
Picture 5 – Poison Sumac Rash
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Poison Sumac Rash
Picture 6 – Poison Sumac Rash
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Poison Sumac Rash Pictures
Picture 7 – Poison Sumac Rash
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