Poison Ivy Symptoms & Causes

Raleigh Poison ivy rashes are caused by an allergic reaction to urushiol, which is the oily resin from the plant. The oil is found in all parts of poison ivy including the leaves, stems and roots of the plant.

Be sure to clean your skin immediately after you come in contact with this oil. Removing the oil and washing your skin can help reduce your chances of getting a poison ivy rash or minimize the spread of the rash. A poison ivy rash is red, itchy, painful, and can last for a few weeks.

Mild cases of a poison ivy rash can be treated at home using soothing lotions and cool baths. In cases which are more severe or in the event the rash is widespread, a prescription medication may be required. This is especially true if the rash is present on your face or genitals.

Common signs and symptoms from a poison ivy rash often include the following:

  • Blisters on the skin
  • Redness
  • Itchy sensation
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing

The rash often appears in a straight line as a result of how the plant brushes against the skin. If you contact the urushiol oil through a piece of clothing, equipment or from pet fur, the rash may appear to be more spread out. The oil can also be transferred to other parts of your body by your fingers. The reaction from contact typically develops 12 to 48 hours after exposure and will lasts a few weeks. The severity of the rash will depend on the amount of urushiol which has come in contact with your skin. It is possible for the rash to develop at different intervals based on the amount of poison ivy each area was exposed to

In order to be affected, the skin have direct contact with the oil from the plant. Fluid from the blisters cannot spread the rash.

Schedule an appointment to see your doctor if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Severe or widespread reaction
  • Difficulty breathing, often from inhaling smoke from burning poison ivy
  • Skin which continues to swell
  • Rash has spread to the eyes, mouth or genitals
  • Oozing pus from the blisters
  • A fever greater above 100 F or 37.8 C
  • No improvement of symptoms after a week

Causes of Poison Ivy

A poison ivy rash is a form of allergic contact dermatitis. The reaction is caused from contact with urushiol, an oily resin which is found in the leaves, stems and roots of the plan. The resin is sticky which allows it to easily attach to skin, clothing, equipment and the fur of animals. People often have a poison ivy reaction through the following methods:

  • Direct contact: This occurs from touching the leaves, stem, roots or berries of the plant.
  • Contact with contaminated objects: If you come in contact with poison ivy and then later touch your clothing, you may get some urushiol on your hands. The oil can then be transferred to your skin through contact with your hands. If contaminated objects are not cleaned, the urushiol can remain active for years.
  • Inhaling smoke: When poison ivy is burned, the smoke contains urushiol and can irritate or harm the respiratory system.

The poison ivy rash itself is not contagious as the fluid from blisters does not contain urushiol and cannot spread the rash. You also cannot get poison ivy from another person unless you come in contact with the urushiol from their skin or clothing.

Risk Factors

Some of the following outdoor activities can put you at higher risk for having exposure to poison ivy:

  • Camping
  • Construction
  • Farming
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Firefighting
  • Forestry
  • Gardening
  • Landscaping
  • Utility work

Be careful not to scratch your poison ivy rash as bacteria from your fingernails can cause an infection. Follow up with your doctor if the blisters start oozing pus as antibiotics are likely required for treatment.

What Dries Poison Ivy Out?