What is Poison Ivy rash?

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Poison oak, ivy, and poison sumac are probably the most common allergenic plants in the United States.

These plants grow in every state except Alaska and are common along roadsides, in forests and pastures, and along streams-even in suburban backyards.

Signs & Symptoms


The first symptom that someone has had a brush with one of these plants is a burning and itching sensation. This is followed by the development of a red, intensely itchy rash, often accompanied by swelling, oozing, and crusting blisters.

A mild case may involve only a few small blisters, while a severe case may cause many large blisters, acute inflammation, fever, and/or inflammation affecting the face or genitals.

Symptoms can appear anywhere from a few hours to seven days after contact and tend to be at their worst between the fourth and seventh days. The rash often forms a linear pattern.

Exposed parts of the body, such as the hands, arms, and face, are the areas most likely to be affected. Scratching can then spread the inflammation to other parts of the body.

Itching, redness, and swelling begin to heal by the second day after the appearance of the rash, and most people are completely healed within seven to fourteen days.

Types of Poison Ivy Reactions

Poison ivy and poison oak are members of the same botanical family. Poison ivy is more prevalent east of the Rocky Mountains; poison oak is more common to the west and southwest. Poison sumac is common in southern swamps and northern wetlands.

All three plants produce similar symptoms, and as a result all three are often referred to simply as poison ivy.


Poison ivy and Poison oak are 3 leaved plants that cause severe dermatitis in about 2/3 of the people who come into contact with them.

The plants take on many different forms. Some leaves are shiny, some are dull colored, some lay flat on the forest floor, some are small shrubs, and some are vines that climb trees.

It is estimated that 65 percent of Americans are sensitive to these plants, and about 2 million people each year have a reaction from contact with them. Sensitivity to poison ivy is acquired and is at its peak during childhood. Most susceptible are people who are sensitive to sunlight.

The irritating substance in poison ivy is urushiol, a substance present in the oily sap in the leaves, flowers, fruit, stem, bark, and roots. Urushiol is one of the most potent toxins on earth; less than 1 ounce would be enough to affect every living person.

The blisters, swelling, and itching are caused by an immune system response to this poisonous sap. The plant is poisonous even long after it has dried out, but it is particularly irritating in the spring and early summer, when it is full of sap. Every part of these plants is toxic.

What Causes Poison Ivy Allergy?

Direct contact with the plant is the most common means of contracting poison ivy, but the poisons can be conveyed to the skin in other ways. Some people have contracted poison ivy by petting an animal that has been in contact with it.

It can also be transmitted by clothing or objects that have come in contact with the plant. People who are highly sensitive to poison ivy can develop a reaction if the plant is burned and they inhale the smoke.

Severe cases of mouth poisoning have occurred in children who have eaten the plant's leaves or grayish berries

Risk Factors:

Is poison ivy rash contagious?

The poison ivy rash is not contagious. Scratching cannot spread it, nor can the fluid from your blisters. You can only spread the rash by touching the oil from the leaves, and then touching other parts of your body and spreading the contact with oil.

Poison Ivy and Children

Summer camps and family hiking sessions can sometimes result in children getting itchy rashes. To be blamed are plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. All of them produce the same substance or oil, called urushiol, which cause rashes.

Urushiol is colorless and even odorless and is present within the leaves. Poison ivy can even grow in the backyards and parks. So any kind of outdoor activity should be monitored and the lawn should be de-weeded periodically.

Bushes should be checked, as they grow as a regular plant and the child would not be able to distinguish the poisonous plant from the regular one.

Precaution is better than cure. Children should be educated and made to understand the description and ill-effects of poison ivy. They come in wide range and some change the appearance depending on seasonal variations.

Urushiol is released from the leaves only when the leaves are damaged like when they are torn, get bumped or are brushed. The moment the leave is damaged, urushiol is released and the skin is affected immediately.

Also, what many people do not know that to get a rash by poison ivy is not only by coming directly in contact with the plant. Human and animal carriers of urushiol can affect people coming in contact with them.

The leaves of the plant can be flown by the air, which can cause damage when those leaves are handled or burned with the rest of the leaves and twigs.

Once the children are made familiar with the plants, they should be asked to steer clear on the sight of the plant or leaves. Parents should avoid places where there are possibilities of growth of such plants.

When going on camps, etc., children should not be dressed in short sleeves and short length pants, so that the body does not brush off such plants. In spite of taking all these precautions, if the child comes in contact with such plants and contact with urushiol is suspected, the area should be washed with water and disinfectant.

It is best to take shower and clean the whole body and the clothes should be removed immediately and washed. Pets should also be bathed after their outdoor adventures.

Basically, the urushiol causes an allergic reaction which irritates the skin and that is the reason why it is known as an allergen. This allergen won’t harm all, but eighty percent of the victims get skin irritations. It not only creates itchy rashes, but can also swell the skin.

The time period for the symptoms to surface is few hours to five days. The rash usually takes one to two week to heal completely. First the skin swells and rash develops. Blisters can also form as a result of regular rubbing of the skin to get rid of the itch. The blisters will form a crust after some days and will flake off.

If the rashes are accompanied with fever, a pediatrician should be contacted for appointment. And if the case isn’t that serious, the doctor recommends home remedies. The child would be asked to be given showers with cold water and calamine lotion would have to be applied.

If the redness and itching is intense, fluid medicine along with pills are administered. Antihistamine is very popular in such cases. Steroids are prescribed by the doctor.


Prevention is better than treatment when it comes to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. When spending time outdoors, keep the following in mind:

• Topical steroids are not helpful for poison ivy and should be avoided.

• Stay cool. Sweating and heat can make itching worse.

• Soak the affected skin in cool water with colloidal oat¬meal (Aveeno) added, available at most drugstores.

• Lightweight fabrics do not provide adequate protection against poison ivy or oak, because the sap can easily penetrate them. Wear gloves and heavier clothing if you might be exposed to the plant.

• Everyone, even children, should learn to recognize, and avoid, these harmful plants. Poison ivy usually grows as a vine, but it can also take the form of a shrub, growing any¬where from two to seven feet high. Its leaves always grow in clusters of three, one at the end of the stalk, the other two opposite each other. Poison oak grows as a shrub exclusively, and its leaves are lobed, like oak leaves. Like those of poison ivy, they grow in threes. Poison sumac grows as a shrub or small tree that has multiple leaflets growing on both sides of a stem. The number of leaflets may range from seven to thirteen, but it is always an odd number.

• Appropriate protective clothing should be worn for activities that take you into forests or through thick under¬brush-long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, socks, and gloves. These items should be washed after they are worn; if they come into contact with poison ivy, they are not safe to wear again until they have been laundered or dry¬cleaned.


Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

Allergic reactions to poison ivy and poison oak range from mild to severe. Reactions start with red and itching skin followed by blisters and oozing. If exposed, rinse the effected area as soon as possible with water.

For severe reactions you should seek medical attention by a doctor. Mild reactions, however, are often easily helped with herbal remedies.

Jewelweed – This plant is known to help skin rashes caused by poison ivy, oak and sumac. Use the fresh, crushed leaves in a compress and hold on the effected skin. You can also apply a tea rinse to the skin. Mix a strong tea and apply to the skin with a clean cloth.

Aloe – The juice from the aloe plant helps heal wounds and acts as an anti-inflammatory. You can use it right off the plant by breaking off a small piece and applying the gel directly to the skin. Aloe vera gel lotion is available commercially. Look for gel that is 100% aloe.

Witch Hazel – This herb is cooling, soothing and drying, three things that will help heal rashes quickly. Readily available at drug stores, apply topically to the skin as often as needed. You can soak a cloth with witch hazel and lay over the effected skin area.

Cucumber – Cucumber acts as a coolant and helps calm inflamed skin. You can use a fresh cucumber applied directly to the skin. You may also mash the cucumber and use by placing small amounts on the skin.

Self Care strategies for Living with Poison Ivy Allergy


Home remedies for the poison ivy rash treatment

Aloe vera gel helps relieve burning and itching. Apply pure aloe vera gel as directed on the product label or as needed. Helps to cure poison ivy rash.

• Wash the area immediately with soap and water. Prompt washing can prevent a reaction of poison ivy.

• A strong tea made of equal parts lime water and white oak bark is very good for poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Apply a compress wet with this solution. Replace the compress with a fresh one as often as it becomes dry. Help to get rid of poison ivy.

• Witch hazel helps stop itching and aids in healing of poison ivy rash.

• Tea tree oil disinfects and cure poison ivy rash.

• For relief of itching, apply a paste made from water, cornstarch, baking soda, oatmeal, or Epsom salts. Use 1 teaspoon of water to 3 teaspoons of the dry ingredient. Helps in the removal of poison ivy rash.

Aloe Vera Juice is a refreshing and anti-bacterial drink, you might find that taking this daily, diluted in some filtered water will not only refresh you like ‘a shower inside you’ but also assists in dealing with any digestive issues you may also be experiencing.

You may find benefit from our information on detoxification as well as a bit about detoxing because of change of diet

Further reading through our articles on Poison Ivy Allergy health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.

We wish you well in your search for solutions to this Poison Ivy Allergy problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

More Resources available about Poison Ivy Allergy :

What is a Skin Rash?
"Rash" is a kind of red bump that forms on your body and could be caused due to a variety of reasons. This word is freely used in normal language to denote a number of skin conditions. Most commonly occurring skin conditions or skin rash types are:

* Non infected scaly patches on the skin. * Scaly patches on skin caused by fungal or bacterial infection. * Red, itchy patches or bumps all over the skin.

Skin rashes are rarely classified as dangerous, but still warrant medical attention. Rashes should not be self-diagnosed. Proper evaluation of the skin rash type requires a doctor visit.
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