Leaves of 3 Leave Them Be

This content was shared with Adventure Guru with permission from Hike Oregon.

Poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac are all plants that you definitely want to avoid when hiking and backpacking. These plants produce a toxin called urushiol which bonds to the skin within 10-20 minutes and will cause an itchy, sometimes blistering rash in 3 out of 4 people. Unfortunately urushiol is found on all parts of the plant, not just the leaves, even if the plant is dead, meaning you must be very careful when handling the plant. Urushiol resin can last on tools, clothing and fur for up to 1 year! So if you or your pet has come into contact with poison oak, ivy or sumac, make sure to wash with Tecnu Original Outdoor Cleanser right away!

Poison oak is found in about half of the United States and it is abundant in Oregon in areas with southern exposure, lots of sunlight and warmth. It has 3 leaves with scalloped edges and it can be bronze to bright green in color, and red in the fall. Poison oak can be a very small one or two stem plant or it can be found as a very large bush, sometimes growing as tall as 4-5 feet!

Poison ivy is found in all states of the US except California, Alaska and Hawaii. It is particularly prevalent in the southeastern states. It also has 3 leaves like poison oak, but these leaves are almond shaped. The leaves are light to dark green in color and they turn bright red in the fall. Like its name suggests, poison ivy grows up in ivy form on trees, fences, houses, telephone poles, etc. 

Poison sumac is only found on the east coast and the southern states like Texas, Alabama and Florida. It is a bushy plant with compound leaves that have 7-13 leaflets. They are yellow to green in color and red in the fall. Sumac also have obvious small white or grey clusters of berries. 

The first signs of a poison oak, ivy or sumac reaction is going to be some itching and swelling. Then you will begin to notice some redness and small blisters forming. The blisters form and couple in a chain-like reaction and they are filled with fluid. Once the blisters pop or ooze they create a yellowish crust. If a rash is left untreated, it can last up to 3-5 weeks, but a typical reaction that is well taken care of, will only last about 5-12 days. 


Taking care of the rash properly is extremely important! As soon as you notice some itchiness, wash with Tecnu Original Outdoor Cleanser right away! If you do still end up getting a rash, make sure to keep it clean and ease the pain and itchiness with Tecnu Rash Relief Spray. Once you have cleaned the urushiol oils off of the rash, touching the rash and then touching another part of your non-infected skin will NOT make the rash spread. This is a common misconception. This also goes for touching someone else who has a poison oak, ivy or sumac rash. 


Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser is a safe formula that strips away the urushiol resin. It is safe to use on your pets, clothing, tools and skin. It's best to use this cleanser within 8 hours of exposure to poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac.

Rub it on to dry skin for 2 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water. This will get all of the urushiol oils off of your skin. If you wash your clothes or tools with it, do so in a bucket or in the sink. 

Tecnu makes little one-time use packets of this cleanser, which is great to take on backpacking trips where you know poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac are going to be prevalent. You do not want to get a blistering rash on a backpacking trip because it is very difficult to keep it clean and that could easily lead to infection.

​Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy & Oak Scrub ​is a more concentrated formula than the Original Cleanser and it also has exfoliating beads in it. This is perfect to use on an area you know for sure has come into contact with poison oak, ivy or sumac and you already feel a little bit of itchiness or see redness. This formula is just for your skin though, not for pets, clothing or tools!

Tecnu Medicated Anti-Itch Spray ​is a homeopathic spray perfect for those instances where your poison oak, ivy or sumac rash is too raw to touch. Once you have cleaned the oils off of your skin with the Original Outdoor Cleanser, you do not want to use it again. So to sooth the itchiness and pain from the blistering rash, this spray is perfect! This spray also works nicely for bug bites. 

These products are a must-have if you are doing anything outdoors during the spring, summer and fall season! You will come across poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac while hiking, backpacking, while doing trail maintenance, clearing brush in your backyard or on your land, and your dog could easily run through some when you take it to the local park. 

~ Franziska Weinheimer, founder of www.HikeOregon.net