Tips and advice

Beware of Poison Ivy!

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About 9 in 10 people are sensitive to poison ivy sap. When skin comes into contact with poison ivy sap, a painful allergic reaction called “contact dermatitis” or “Rhus dermatitis” may occur. The best way to prevent this type of reaction is to identify poison ivy in order to avoid it.
Poison ivy can be found in all regions of Québec. It grows in a variety of different areas: in forests or fields, in sunny or shady areas, in dry or wet soil.
  • The plant is particularly common at the edge of forests and along fences, roads, cliffs, riverbanks and railroads.
  • Poison ivy leaves are shiny and made up of 3 pointed leaflets (small leaves). 
  • The stem of the middle leaflet is much longer than those of the other 2 leaflets. The edge of the leaves can be smooth or notched. 
  • They are reddish when they appear in the spring and turn green in summer. In the fall they turn different shades of yellow, orange or red. 
  • Poison ivy grows as a shrub, a climbing vine variety can also be found in southwestern Québec. 
  • Poison ivy is anywhere from 20 centimetres to a metre tall.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy usually appear 24 to 48 hours after contact with the sap. The first sign of an allergic reaction is a strong itching with redness at the site of contact. 

Afterwards, lesions may appear and cause Inflammation, swelling, blistering and crusting when blisters burst and leak. If your skin has come into contact with sap: Wash exposed areas with cold water as soon as possible, use a mild soap, make sure you remove all bits of the plant that could have been stuck under your nails and avoid rubbing your skin too hard.

For further information on allergic reactions to poison ivy, read Allergic Reactions caused by Poison Ivy. on the Portail santé mieux-être.

Be careful

You may come into contact with poison ivy during outdoor activities.
  • So always stick to the trails, wear protective clothing, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed shoes. 
  • On marked trails, pay attention to panels which warn about poison ivy presence. 

Furthermore, poison ivy sap may stick to clothes, tools or animal hair. Be careful as the sap may be toxic for many months.

For further information on how to identify, handle and get rid of poison ivy, read Identifying and Getting Rid of Poison Ivy.
Other precautions

Call Info-Santé 811 for further information on what to do in case of contact with poison ivy sap.


Source: Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux - May 2017
Picture source : ©Sam Fraser-Smith, 2009

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