HOW DOES POISONING OCCUR?
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac have the poisonous sap (‘urushiol’ pronounced “you-ROO-shee-ol”) in their roots, stems, leaves and fruit. The sap is released when the plant is bruised, making it easier to contract Rhus-dermatitis in the spring and early summer when leaves are tender than in the fall and winter hashing time-frame. The sap may be deposited on the skin by direct contact with the plant or by contact with contaminated objects, such as shoes, clothing, tools and animals (this includes hash hounds). Severe cases can occurred from sap-coated soot in the smoke of burning plants (probably won’t have that too much on trail, but be careful when dealing with PI outside of the hash world as well). Because urushiol is inside the plant, brushing against an intact plant will not cause a reaction. But undamaged plants are rare because “Poison oak, ivy and sumac are very fragile plants,” and stems or leaves can be broken by wind or animals, and even the tiny holes made by chewing insects, can release urushiol. So you can figure the plant has suffered at least some micro fractures that would have caused the release of urushiol. At this point I’m not going to bore you with how urushiol bonds to the proteins in the skin within 20-30 minutes and then it causes an ‘allergic’ reaction prompting the body to take … just don’t play with the stuff if you get or feel you may be susceptible to getting rash for the poison.