Poisonous Plants: Identify or Itch Like Crazy

Poisonous Plants: Identify or Itch Like Crazy

Although I have hunted over much of the U.S., I have managed to avoid most irritating experiences with poisonous plants. That said, I'm not the guy who can roll around in a patch of poison ivy (15 percent of the population is resistant to the plant) as I discovered on a deer hunt years ago. Here's how you can avoid what I went through when dealing with poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac this fall when you head to the deer woods.

It was the great deer state of Alabama that gave me my nastiest case of the "scratch-and-itch" after spending a day hanging treestands one December. With no leaves to help identify the culprit, I spent the day cutting and handling the rope-like flora with no idea they were poison ivy vines. Nor did I know the vines themselves could be so caustic. Within 24 hours, I was exceptionally miserable; driving me off my treestand to seek help at a Doc — in — a-Box. It took a steroid shot before I came close to restful night's sleep and returned to the deer woods.

When you break out in a rash from a poisonous plant, you are essentially having a simple, yet highly irritating reaction, called allergic contact dermatitis, from the common poisonous plant oil, urushiol (pronounced yoo-ROO-shee-all).

If you're exposed, there are a few simple remedies to keep you on your stand, and a few missteps to avoid crying for relief. Keep reading, and you'll know just what to do the next time your skin is raising up with bubbles and a viciously itchy rash.


Poisonous Plants: The Big Three


Although there are some nasty poisonous plants, like devil's club and cow parsnip in the great northern woods, for the most part, classic poison ivy will be the most likely outdoor skin rash culprit.

Poison Ivy

identification and treatment of poisonous plants

When it comes to nasty poisonous plants, poison ivy rules the roost. It resides in bulk in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. The plant comes in bushy shrubs and will grow into long and thick vines.


To identify it, look for three leaves in a cluster with white or cream-colored berries and remember the old Boy Scout adage: "leaflets three, let it be." During the fall, the plant will sport yellows and reds, and the vines are similar to rope with a furry-like exterior, similar to worn hemp. Even with no leaves on the plant, handling the stems and heavier vines can be troublesome.

Poison Oak

Avoiding poisonous plants


Although it's not nearly as common as poison ivy, poison oak resides mostly in the Mountain West. There's another subspecies in the Mountain East, but again, it's far less common.

Like poison ivy, this poisonous plant can grow in a vine, or in a shrub-like plant. The oak-like leaves typically are in clusters of three. But poison oak can be a tricky devil, sometimes sprouting as many as seven leaves in a single cluster.

 Poison Sumac

Identifying poisonous plants

Primarily a product of the Deep South, and in some cases wet regions of the northern U.S., poison sumac is far less common than even poison oak.

Growing as a shrub or small tree, the plant has seven to 13 leaflets on each side that end in points. And just to be clear, when it comes to poisonous plants, sumac is no less lethal than its counterparts.

Do & Don't Treatments

If you feel swelling or numbness in your eyes, throat, and lips, or if you're coughing, see a doctor immediately. Also seek medical attention if large areas of your body have a rash, or if your blisters have pus. Pay attention and remain vigilant if you've come into contact with any of these plants while they are being burned. Any exposure to smoke from poisonous plants warrants an immediate visit to an ER.

The Don'ts

It takes about 24 hours for symptoms to surface if you've been exposed to any of the three poisonous plants described. Your sensitivity level and the extent of your exposure will determine just how miserable you're going to be.

The first item on the list is laundry. Never, and I mean never, wear the clothes you had on during your initial exposure until they have been washed. And make sure you have clean bedding to sleep in. A couple of nights in the sheets you slept in when you came back from the woods can really up the itch factor.

Also stay away from hot water, it can inflame the skin advancing your rash significantly and, of course, try not to scratch.

The Do's

Try not to sweat or overheat yourself during the day; clearly it will not help your condition. Try ice packs, to cool your skin and reduce the inflammation. Remember to wear clean clothes and change your sheets nightly until the rash regresses.

Treatment for poisonous plants

Try a topical over the counter cream such as Dr. Burkenstock's, Itch Stuff. This 'stuff' is made to combat any itch, whether from nasty bug bites or an unwelcome tryst with poisonous plants. A product of the Deep sweaty and itchy South, the 'stuff' can really make a difference.

Other home remedies include applying an oatmeal or baking soda paste. The goo can help dry out the skin and I'm guessing it might even work as a scent cover.

Before you depart on this season's hunt, add a topical treatment as a part of your traveler's first aid kit. Remember, follow the "Do's", avoid the "Don'ts" and visually know your poisonous plants in every season. Be plant aware and your next hunt will be free from some nasty skin unpleasantries.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

Trending Articles

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

See More Trending Articles

More Survival

Although I have hunted over much of the U.S., I have managed to avoid most irritating experiences Survival

Poisonous Plants: Identify or Itch Like Crazy

Peter B. Mathiesen - October 07, 2015

Although I have hunted over much of the U.S., I have managed to avoid most irritating...

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of defense is insect repellent with DEET to keep chiggers at bay. But when you do get a few chigger bites, use Chigarid to treat them. Hunting How-To

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Lynn Burkhead

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of...

Having a handle on the latest life-saving gear could mean difference between life and death. Here are 10 best survival gear products that we love this year. Survival

Best Survival Gear for Your Next Adventure

Game & Fish Online Staff - April 11, 2014

Having a handle on the latest life-saving gear could mean difference between life and death....

Catch the series premiere of Apex Predator on Sportsman Channel, April 9 at 8 p.m. EST as Remi Survival

10 Most Dangerous Predators in North America

Game & Fish Online Staff - April 09, 2015

Catch the series premiere of Apex Predator on Sportsman Channel, April 9 at 8 p.m. EST as Remi

See More Survival

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.