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Poison Ivy - Getting Rid of Poison Ivy Plants

Poison Ivy Treatment Guide


Updated June 25, 2014

If your child get a poison ivy rash, or especially if he gets it over and over, it is important to figure out where he is getting exposed to the poison ivy plants. Is it in your back yard, at the playground, or on the way to school?

Identifying Poison Ivy

To identify poison ivy, it is most helpful to look at pictures of poison ivy plants. These pictures demonstrates a lot of things you should look for to help you identify and avoid poison ivy, including:
  • three leaflets ('leaves of three, let it be')
  • the middle leaflet has a longer stalk (petiole) than the other two
  • leaflets are fatter near their base
  • elliptical leaflets with slight lobes
  • leaflets are all about the same size
  • no thorns along the stem
  • clusters of green or white berries may be present
  • aerial roots may be visible on the stem
According to the FDA, other things to look for to avoid poison ivy and related plants include that1:

Poison Ivy

  • grows around lakes and streams in the Midwest and the East
  • woody, ropelike vine, a trailing shrub on the ground, or a free-standing shrub
  • normally three leaflets (groups of leaves all on the same small stem coming off the larger main stem), but may vary from groups of three to nine
  • leaves are green in the summer and red in the fall
  • yellow or green flowers and white berries

Poison Oak

  • eastern (from New Jersey to Texas) grows as a low shrub; western (along the Pacific coast) grows to 6-foot-tall clumps or vines up to 30 feet long
  • oak-like leaves, usually in clusters of three
  • clusters of yellow berries

Poison Sumac

  • grows in boggy areas, especially in the Southeast
  • rangy shrub up to 15 feet tall
  • seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets
  • glossy pale yellow or cream-colored berries

Getting Rid of Poison Ivy

Once you identify poison ivy, especially if it is in your back yard, you will want to get rid of it, unless it is in a part of your yard that you and your kids can simply avoid. Unfortunately, trying to get rid of poison ivy can be difficult and dangerous, since the poison ivy plants often grow back and you run the very big risk of getting exposed while trying to kill the plants.

Some options to consider to get rid of poison ivy include:

  • call a professional landscaper to remove the poison ivy plants, especially if you have a lot of poison ivy in your yard.
  • spray the poison ivy plants with an herbicide, such as Roundup or Ortho Poison Ivy Killer, keeping in mind that they can also kill surrounding plants too.
  • manually remove the poison ivy plants, including the roots.
  • repeat spraying or manually removing the poison ivy plants as they grow back.
If removing the poison ivy plants on your own, be sure to wear protection and keep in mind that urushiol can remain on your clothing and gloves, etc., causing a rash if you later touch them.

Also, be sure to properly dispose of the poison ivy plants, since even a dead poison ivy plant can trigger a reaction, and never burn a poison ivy plant, as that can trigger a deadly reaction to anyone who is exposed to the smoke.


FDA Consumer Magazine. Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Its Cousins.

Habif: Clinical Dermatology, 4th ed.

Rhus (Toxicodendron) dermatitis. Tanner TL - Prim Care - 01-JUN-2000; 27(2): 493-502

Related Video
How to Identify Poison Ivy

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