22 Surprising Facts about Poison Ivy

Posted on July 16, 2020 at 3:50 PM by Tom Swegle

An illustration of various animals around a Poison Ivy Plant

Top Facts About the Plants Everyone Loves to Hate

Here at Outdoor Joe's®, our team is constantly searching for the latest research on all things related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Even being poison ivy experts, we get some questions that make us scratch our heads, pull up our sleeves, and start researching.

We'd like to take a moment to think our amazing researcher "Outdoor" James LeFevre, who authored an extremely detailed report to help us answer all your itching and burning questions. From that report, we were able to put together some of the most surprising facts you never knew you needed to know!

1. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac share the same family as Mangoes, Cashews, and Pistachios.

This means they all produce the same poison, urushiol, and it only takes a tiny bit of exposure to urushiol to cause allergic reactions.

2. It doesn't take much to do a lot of harm.

In most exposures, only one nanogram (ONE BILLIONTH OF A GRAM) of urushiol is required to cause a rash! To make matters worse, on average, about 100 nanograms of urushiol come into contact with a person per exposure

3. Many animals don't react in the same way to urushiol. 

In fact, only primates and hamsters have an allergic reaction!

4. Some animals use poison ivy and related plants as a source of food and shelter. 

While many birds eat the fruit, deer, black bears, muskrats, rabbits, and insects also enjoy the stem and leaves. Though the plants are toxic to humans, poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison sumac are often a commodity to many animals!

5. Poison ivy is extremely adaptable.

When the plant grows in shaded locations, it tends to extend itself upwards in an attempt to reach more sunlight. However, poison ivy plants that are exposed to more sunlight are shorter and greener.

BONUS FACT: Poison ivy even reacts to the wind by growing shorter in windy areas to avoid it!

6. Although the plant is less active in the winter, poison ivy still "active" and poses a threat. 

The plant may look "dead" but the urushiol it produces is still present in all remaining parts of the plant! 

7. Poison ivy can grow in many types of soil.

Poison ivy loves to grow in nutrient-dense soils with high concentrations of calcium but has also been known to grow in sandy, rocky, or even clay soils!

8. Climate change is making poison ivy even more dangerous.

Higher levels of carbon dioxide have been shown to increase the growth rate, size, population, and urushiol production of the plant.

9. Poison Sumac can be taller than you.

This plant grows as shrubs or trees and can reach heights of 5 to 20 feet!

10. Permanently wet areas and extremely dry or hot climates are the only areas in which poison ivy does not grow.

Otherwise, the plant can be found in wooded areas, wetlands, prairies, rock terrains, city parks, residential areas, sand dunes, and even on beaches.

11. Natural events can be good for poison ivy.

Poison Ivy is usually found along forest edges and canopy gaps rather than forest interior but the plant frequently emerges from events that open the canopy like fires, floods, windstorms, or logging.

12. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac have been known to inhabit every state in the U.S. with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.

Together, the plants pose a serious threat almost anywhere in the continental United States.

13. Dead plants are still a viable threat.

The resin from poison ivy that causes allergic reactions (urushiol) can remain as a potent allergen for years under basic or acidic environments, high temperatures, and even after the plant dies.

14. You’re probably allergic to poison ivy.

About 85% of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac and 10-15% are extremely allergic!

15. There are items you can wear to decrease your risk of exposure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves to prevent any skin contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.

16. The Urushiol resin found in poison ivy that causes allergic reactions initially appears clear but blackens as it is exposed to the air.

It's also super sticky so it's always a good idea to wash your clothes after being exposed on a hike, camping, fishing or hunting.

17. Rhus Toxicodendron and has been shown to reduce symptoms of Toxicodendron dermatitis (the effects of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac exposure).

Rhus Toxicodendron is also the primary ingredient found in Outdoor Joe’s®

18. If you have come in contact with Urushiol, handwashing may not be enough.

If contact with poison ivy occurs, the exposed area should be washed immediately with soap and water.

However, soap and water can only remove 50% of the urushiol (allergen inducing resin produced by poison ivy) after 10 minutes; 25% of the urushiol after 15 minutes; and NONE after 30 minutes. This is because withing 30 minutes the skin completely absorbs the urushiol.

19. Poison Ivy causes the majority of allergic contact dermatitis cases.

About 10-50 million Americans are affected every year and about 25-40 million Americans are so sensitive to the urushiol produced by poison ivy that they require medical care after exposure!

20. There are 9 million office visits and 1.6 million hospital outpatient visits for contact dermatitis in the U.S. every year.

Toxicodendron dermatitis (Poison Ivy and related plant reactions) is the largest contributor.

21. The effects of poison ivy are not only irritating and painful physically; they can hurt financially too.

The average cost of treatment for Toxicodendron Dermatitis in the Emergency Department is $648.95. The Average cost of an Outpatient Visit for the same is $226.50. The average cost for a visit to the Urgent Care Clinic to deal with poison ivy effects is about $168.85.

All of these are reactionary. The cost of being proactive and avoiding the other expenses with a single bottle of Outdoor Joe’s®? $34.95!

22. Most patients seen for Toxicodendron dermatitis end up using non-prescription treatments costing anywhere from $154.11 - $253.23 on average.

Again, the cost of being proactive and avoiding the other expenses with a single bottle of Outdoor Joe’s® is only $34.95!

The more you know

We hope you found this information as interesting as we did! So what's next? Get prepared!

Want to tell Joe how much you love Outdoor Joe's® or got a burning question for the Good ol' Poison Ivy Pro?

Send Joe an email and you might just get featured in our next "Dear Outdoor Joe®" post! 

Want to avoid getting poison ivy related rashes? Get Outdoor Joe’s®!


Want to get rid of the rash and get relief? Get Zanfel!!

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