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GardenSMART :: Poison Ivy During Winter

Poison Ivy During Winter

By Dan Boelman, RN, BSN, Zanfel Laboratories
Photographs courtesy of Zanfel Laboratories

Myth: One can safely handle poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants in the winter.

Fact: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants are allergenic year-round. Even in the winter when the plants are dormant, they are still toxic!

During the winter months, poison ivy isn't always on our minds during outdoor activities. Whether you're hiking, hunting, or doing yard work, exposure to poison ivy's stems, branches, or roots can still lead to an itchy skin reaction.

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Collecting Firewood For The Winter

While collecting firewood for the winter, be sure to inspect the woodpile for the presence of poison ivy vines that may have gotten mixed in. A section of a poison ivy vine may even cling to an individual piece of wood. If you see a vine in with your firewood that has hairy looking roots, be sure to carefully remove it and the pieces of wood it was attached to. Removing wood that has been contaminated with poison ivy can save you from a wintertime case of poison ivy.

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Photo courtesy of Jon Sachs

The poison ivy toxin, urushiol, is stable at high temperatures, and the plant particles dispersed in the smoke are both allergenic and an irritant. There is at least one case where a person has died from respiratory distress after inhaling the smoke of burning poison ivy. So keep poison ivy out of the fireplace – your family will appreciate it!

Poison Ivy Hiding In Christmas Trees

At Zanfel Laboratories, every December we get calls from people across the country who are totally miserable, and totally confused as to how they could be broken out with poison ivy in the winter. The common denominator for these itchy callers is their recent acquisition of a live Christmas tree. It happens more often than you'd think!

During the years that it takes to cultivate a Christmas tree, a poison ivy vine can sneak in and wrap around the trunk and branches. When cutting your own tree, be sure to wear gloves. Inspect the tree for vines with hairy looking roots, making sure to look in through those dense branches.

Got poison ivy? Get Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Wash. Zanfel is an OTC product that can be found at most pharmacies. For more information please visit


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