The poison in poison ivy is not really poison at all; it’s a highly allergenic oil called urushiol.
Coming in contact with it causes contact dermatitis, or itchy, painful skin, in almost everyone.
Statistically, 85% of the population develops an allergy to the oil at some point in their lives.
You can come in contact with urushiol by brushing up against poison ivy, touching an object or person who’s had contact with the plant, or by being in the vicinity when the plant is burned.
The oil travels well in smoke and causes serious medical problems if it gets in the throat and lungs.
The Japanese sumac or lacquer tree contains urushiol as well.
Urushiol is an ingredient in all Japanese lacquers.
When the lacquer is completely hardened, urushiol’s poisonous characteristics are lessened significantly, but highly sensitive people will sometimes react to Japanese lacquered products.
If you come in contact with poison ivy, you have 15 minutes to wash it off your skin with cold water before it binds with the skin surface and causes problems.
Don’t scrub and don’t use a cloth; just rinse with copious amounts of water.