Poison ivy is a member of the Toxicodendron genus of flowering plants which also includes poison oak and poison sumac. Poison ivy is the most common and widespread among the three. It typically grows as a shrub or vine and can be found throughout the United States and Canada (except Alaska, Hawaii and the desert areas of the Southwest). You can find them in the woods, by the road, and along the riverbanks. They can grow virtually anywhere in the home landscape.
What causes poison ivy rash?
Most people will develop an allergic reaction after exposure to poison ivy and other poisonous plants such as poison oak and sumac. The itchiness and redness of the skin are due to the body’s response to the oil found in these plants called ‘urushiol’. When the oil touches the skin, it often causes the itchy skin rash. Within minutes of contact with the oil, the skin starts to absorb it. But rash doesn’t appear right away. All parts of the plant, including stem and roots, contain urushiol, which affects the skin.
Burning poison ivy, poison oak and sumac can also cause skin rash as the plants release particles of urushiol into the air. Inhaling the smoke could also lead to severe allergic respiratory problems. Always keep in mind not to burn poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
Poison Ivy Symptoms
When you are exposed to poison ivy, it causes a skin rash which usually appears within 8-24hrs or a few days after exposure. It begins with itching followed by a red rash and sometimes swelling. The rash can be very itchy and can appear on any part of the body. You spread the oil by touching other parts of the body. Make sure not to touch your face or other sensitive areas like genitals to avoid spreading urushiol. Itchy bumps, patches, and streaking blisters are also common symptoms.
First Aid, Poison Ivy Remedies, and Poison Ivy Rash Treatment
- Rinse your skin thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or poison plant wash.
- Wash your skin with soap and lots of water. Rinsing with water alone will not remove the oil completely.
- Apply an over-the-counter creams or lotion that work well in removing the oil.
- Itching can be reduced by applying calamine lotion or an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream.
- Use Oral Ivy for treating poison ivy symptoms. Put 10 drops of oral ivy in 2 ounces of water every 2 hours as needed. As symptoms improve, reduce it to once every 4 hours, then twice daily until symptoms disappear. Place drops under tongue in 2 ounces of water at least 15 minutes before or half hour after eating, brushing teeth or drinking anything except water.
Poison Ivy Prevention
- Stay away from areas where poison ivy grow.
- Remove these plants from your property, especially in areas where you work and play.
- Wear long sleeves, closed shoes, socks, long pants tucked into the boots, and gloves if you think you may be getting around in areas where poison ivy may grow.
- Wash exposed clothing that comes in contact with the poison ivy. Use hot water with detergent.
- Urushiol can stick to almost anything including gardening tools and camping equipment. Clean your tools after use by washing them with soap and lots of water.
- Keep your pets from running through poison ivy areas. If you think they play around where the plant may grow, wash them immediately with pet soap/shampoo and rinse thoroughly with 0water to remove urushiol from their fur. A person can be exposed to urushiol by touching the pet’s fur that comes in contact with the poisonous plants.
- Start taking oral ivy before the growing season. Take 3 to 5 drops of Oral Ivy in a small glass of water daily by mouth 7 to 14 days before exposure and continue throughout the poison ivy season.
- Apply barrier skin creams or lotions that block the oil from getting into your skin.
- Learn to recognize the poison ivy plant.
- “Leaves of three, let it be.” Remember this old saying that most parents like to tell their children to teach them not to touch a plant with cluster of three leaves because it might be poison ivy or poison oak. The leaves of poison ivy are compound and each leaf consists of three leaflets on each stem. The top leaflet has a long stalk. The surface of the leaves may or may not have a waxy or oily surface that somewhat reflects the light.
- Poison ivy grows as a shrub in Northern and Western United and Canada.
- In the east, Midwest and south, poison ivy grows is a vine or free-standing plant
How to identify poison ivy in each season?
- Spring – the leaves are reddish with yellow-green flowers
- Summer – green
- Fall – the leaves are turns to yellow then orange to red, with off-white berries
- During winter the leaves fall off and the stems are hairy
When to seek medical help and see a doctor?
There are several poison ivy rash relief and treatments that you could do at home. However, those remedies might not work at all times if you experience the following symptoms:
- The rash covers more than one-third of your body
- You experience swelling
- Too many blisters and rashes
- Blisters ooze pus
- The rash shows signs of infection. You likely have infection if you develop a fever or experience swelling, pain, pus, and warmth around the rash.
- You have severe experience from urushiol before
- Rash develops on your face (especially near the eyes and mouth) and genitals
- Swelling of the eyes
- You have difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Doesn’t improve after 7 to 10 days
If you experience those signs and symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Serious cases require medical supervision and prescription treatment.