What’s the Difference Between Poison Ivy and Poison Oak?

Who would have thought that being outdoors in the bright and beautiful summertime could pose health risks? Yes, it can. Exposure to poison ivy or poison oak plant can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, leading to rashes. 

According to the American Skin Association, roughly 85% of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac, or poison oak, with 10%-15% percent extremely allergic. 

Hiking and brushing against a poison oak or poison ivy plant could mean skin troubles or worse depending on the severity of the allergic reaction.

Needless to say, it’s best to avoid running into either plant. However, if you develop rashes after your hike, you need to know if poison oak or poison ivy is the culprit to administer the right treatment. How can you tell the difference between the two plants?

Visit AFC Urgent Care Burlington for treatment of any type of rash. Our center can help by prescribing pain relief medications or ointments to help reduce the severity of a rash. Walk into our center today to receive care

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Plants

Poison oak and poison ivy plants share certain commonalities and few differences. Here are some characteristics that you should know about. 

Grow as Bush or Vine 

The poison oak plant grows like a low shrub or tall shrub, depending on location or vine (up to 3 feet in height). The poison ivy plant grows like a shrub or fuzzy vine and is mainly found along rivers, in open fields, wooded areas, and on roadsides, but can also be found in parks and vineyards. 

Three Leaves

Groups of three oak-shaped dark-green leaves with reddish tint are on the poison oak plant. In comparison, the poison ivy plant has a cluster of three almond-shaped leaves with a fuzzy feel on the underside, which is dull green with sheen but changes to a reddish color during the fall season or can have fuzziness on both sides of the leaves. The leaves of both plants vary in size. 

Plant Berries

Small, whitish-green, pumpkin-shaped berries are produced by the poison ivy plant, while the berries produced by a poison oak tree are small and have a green-yellow color, which turns tan when mature.


  • In the first instance of exposure to poison ivy or poison oak, thoroughly wash the affected skin with soap and cool water to remove the harmful plant resin-urushiol and minimize the severity of the rash.
  • Calm the rash by using either over-the-counter antihistamines, calamine lotion, or cold compresses. Seek medical attention if the rash persists or worsen.
  • If blisters, fever, swelling, or difficulty breathing is experienced along with the rash, visit your local urgent care clinic for treatment.

Both poison ivy and poison oak can be tough to distinguish from each other. When going outdoors where any of these plants might be present, protect your skin from exposure. Treat immediately if you come in contact with any of the plants and get medical care if you have a severe allergic reaction.

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