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49 Antietam St, Devens, MA 01434    (978) 772-3293    (978) 772-3295

Poison Ivy - Prevention - First Aid - Plant ID

Happy Friday from the Health Office!

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is the most common poisonous plant in the United States. Contact with the leaf, stem or root of the plant can cause a rash called contact dermatitis due to exposure to the oil of the plant called urushiol.

When exposed to the urushiol oil, it causes an itchy, blistery rash that can occur 12 to 72 hours after exposure. The rash is typically red, contains blisters (blister fluids are not contagious), and can appear in lines or streaks and cause swelling. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the oil can remain on clothes, shoes, gardening tools, surfaces, and sports equipment for five years. Other ways to become exposed is by touching an outdoor animal that was exposed to the urushiol oils or even inhaling particles containing urushiol oil from burning the plants.

The rash is not contagious but can spread by new exposures to the urushiol oil. If shoes or clothes are contaminated with the oil then touching the oil to new areas of the skin creates additional areas of rash outbreak. Most people see the rash go away in a few weeks.

rash from poison ivy
Rash from poison ivy. Image courtesy of the AAD website (


The most effective prevention is to keep the skin covered by wearing long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves when doing yard work or working where there is poison ivy.

Remove exposed clothing carefully without touching the clothing to the skin and launder separately in hot water with detergent.

Clean shoes, tools, surfaces, and equipment with Dawn dishwashing detergent or rubbing alcohol and soap and water to remove the urushiol oils.

Use gloves but not rubber/latex gloves as they provide no protection because they can be broken down by the urushiol oils.

Do not burn plants because inhaling smoke from burning plants can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.

First Aid

Immediately wash the skin with Lava soap or Dawn dishwashing detergent, rubbing alcohol, or a specialized poison plant wash with lots of water to remove the urushiol oils.

Scrub under nails with a brush to remove any oils that may have gotten under your fingernails.

Cold, wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone 1% cream can be used to reduce itching and blistering. Oatmeal baths may help with the itch as well.

Oral antihistamines like Benadryl may be taken if itching is severe but note that Benadryl may cause drowsiness. Zyrtec is an over-the-counter antihistamine that can be taken once a day for itchiness but may also cause drowsiness.

Seek medical attention if the rash is near the eyes, on the genitals, or is widespread as oral steroids may be needed. If in doubt, contact your physician or licensed provider.

Plant Identification

The three poisonous plants with urushiol oils are poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. Poison ivy and poison sumac are the two poisonous plants found in our area whereas poison oak is found more often in the southeast and the west coast.

Poison Ivy

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Eastern poison ivy is typically a hairy, ropelike vine with three shiny green (or red in the fall) leaves budding from one small stem

Poison Sumac

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Woody shrub that has stems that contain 7-13 leaves arranged in pairs and may have glossy, pale yellow, or cream-colored berries

Poison Oak – Southeast and West Coast

Photos courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Typically a shrub with leaves of three, similar to poison ivy, Pacific poison oak may be vine-like, May have yellow or green flowers and clusters of green-yellow or white berries

CDC - Poisonous Plants
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Overview


Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to the family of James Phelps for the donation of tissues!
  • Thank you to the family of Mae Pflaum for the donation of granola bars!

Your donations are greatly appreciated
as well as needed to help care for the students and staff here at Parker.


Wish List:

  • Tissues
  • Band-Aids
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Healthy snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers)

Be well - Smile often - Stay healthy!
Enjoy this beautiful weather! 

Warm Regards, Lisa
Liza Zick, BSN, RN
School Nurse
Office Hours: 8:15 AM - 3:45 PM
(Weds until 2:15 PM)
Phone: 978-772-3293 x135
Fax: 978-772-9494



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