Poison Ivy During Fall: What You Need To Know

October 5, 2022

Poison Ivy Leaves During Fall

Poison ivy is one of the earliest plants to have its leaves turn colors in the fall. The leaves change from green to yellow, then to intense shades of orange, red, and even purple! You'll look out into the woods and everything will be green, except for brightly colored leaves on a poison ivy shrub or vine.

Why is it that poison ivy leaves change color before most other plants? Poison ivy plants rely on birds to spread their seeds. When flocks of migratory birds are passing through an area, the bright poison ivy leaves are like a beacon drawing these birds in for a meal of poison ivy seeds.

Fall Yard & Garden Clean Up

One important thing to remember is the leaves, and other parts of poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants can remain toxic for years after they have died. Be careful while raking leaves and doing fall yard cleanup in areas where poison ivy is nearby. It is important to wear long pants, long sleeves, and vinyl gloves to help prevent a reaction. After poison ivy's leaves have fallen to the ground, poison ivy vines can be identified by the hairy looking aerial roots the vine uses to cling to the tree. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants are toxic all year round. You can get a miserable allergic skin reaction from exposure to a "dormant" poison ivy stem, vine, or root in the fall and winter.

Keep Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Out Of Fires

If you dispose of dead leaves and other plant material this fall by burning them, be very careful to keep poison ivy, oak, and sumac out of the fire. The toxic oil in these plants, urushiol, is stable at high temperatures. The burned plant particles dispersed in the smoke are both allergenic and irritant. Wherever this dangerous smoke contacts your skin, you can get a very severe reaction. There is at least one case1 where a person has died from respiratory distress after inhaling the smoke of burning poison ivy. So keep poison ivy out of the bonfire - for your safety and the safety of everyone in your neighborhood!

Rash Prevention & Treatment With Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Wash

Unless you wash with regular soap and water within 15 minutes of exposure, the toxic oil from poison ivy, oak, and sumac absorbs down into the layers of your skin, and stays bonded in the layers of your skin for a few weeks. 

Zanfel is the only product clinically shown2,3 to remove the poison ivy, oak, and sumac plant's oil, urushiol, from the skin ANYTIME after outbreak of the rash. Once the poison ivy oil has been removed from your skin during a Zanfel washing, itching stops, and your body is in a position to immediately begin healing the rash. For severe cases, Zanfel can be used in conjunction with prescription treatments like steroids. Zanfel can also be used as a post-exposure preventative. Zanfel is an OTC product that can be found in the first aid section of most pharmacies.

1. Gealt L, Osterhoudt K, Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome After Smoke Inhalation From Burning Poison Ivy. JAMA 1995; 274 (4): 358 - 359

2. Davila A, Lucas J, Laurora M, Jacoby J, Reed J, Heller M. A new topical agent, Zanfel, ameliorates urushiol-induced Toxicodendron allergic contact dermatitis. Ann Emerg Med 2003; 42(4) Suppl: S98

3. Stankewicz H, Cancel G, Eberhardt M, Melanson S. Effective Topical Treatment and Post Exposure Prophylaxis of Poison Ivy: Objective Confirmation. Ann Emerg Med 2007; 50(3) Suppl: S26-S27

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