Five Ways to Avoid Poison Ivy and Oak Rash


A common question we hear about poison ivy and oak is, “How do I prevent poison ivy and oak rash in the first place?” This is a really common question if you have had to deal with it several times in one year.


So, here are five of the best ways to avoid getting poison ivy and oak rash in the first place:

  • 1) – Understand how you get the rash so you’ll understand why you are getting it. The cause of poison ivy, oak and sumac rash is your body’s allergic reaction to oil produced by the plant called urushiol (pronounced oo-roo-she-all). Urushiol is found in every fiber of the plants and will cause the rash in most people if it gets on the skin and is not removed. Urushiol attaches itself to skin and becomes extremely difficult to remove after about 15 minutes, even with soap and water. Tecnu Original and Tecnu Extreme are cleansers that unlock the bond of urushiol with the skin to remove the oil.

  • 2) – When vacationing to outdoor recreation areas, be sure to stay on established paths and trails. Families love to head to favorite outdoor hiking, camping and boating areas in the spring and summer. Children, and some young-at-heart adults, like to wander down paths that have not been heavily used or regularly maintained. Unfortunately some of those trails are overgrown with vegetation that may contain poison ivy, oak and sumac plants. Local, State and Federal Parks have established trails that are marked clearly, so stay on those and you should be fine.

  • 3) – Learn what the plants and bushes really look like in an outdoor setting and avoid them. Many people know what the leaf of each plant looks like but few know what those leaves look like as part of a bush. Also, the plants can change color during the season varying from green to bright red. Poison ivy and oak have leaflets of three petals, while poison sumac has leaflets of seven to thirteen. Sometimes the plants have clumps of berries visible, and sometimes they do not. The more familiar you are with the plants, the less chance you’ll have contacting the rash. See our photos of poison ivy, oak and sumac for reference.


Leaves of three, let them be!


  • 4) – Wear proper clothing covering as much exposed skin as possible. Although the rash causing oil from the plants can permeate through thin clothing, you are much better off when you cover up. Wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants if it’s comfortable. Some very sensitive people have been known to tape over the area where gloves and long shirt sleeves come together since this is a prime area for the rash to start.


Remember that urushiol will attach to any type of clothing, gloves, boots, equipment, tools, etc. and those items will be contaminated with the oil. This can result in you coming in contact with the poison ivy or oak oil later when you touch these items and possibly cause a rash. Therefore, be sure to wash any item that may have come in contact with the plants. Tecnu Original is the only poison ivy and oak cleanser on the market you can use to remove urushiol from all of these surfaces.


  • 5) – Remove urushiol from you skin as soon as possible after being exposed to the plants. The best way to prevent a poison ivy, oak or sumac rash is to not have the rash causing urushiol on your skin. Tecnu Original and Tecnu Extreme are designed to be used within 2-8 hours after exposure, but the sooner you use it the better the results. Know that every person’s reaction to urushiol is different depending on their body’s sensitivity to the oil. Also multiple encounters with urushiol may result in a different outcome for the same person. Some people become more sensitive to poison ivy, oak and sumac the more often they are exposed to the plants.


Lisa Leverich
TecLabs, Inc.


The International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine