What Are the Basics of Poison Ivy Rash?

What is poison ivy rash?

Poison ivy rash is an allergic skin reaction to a toxic plant, poison ivy. It typically has three leaves, like in the pictures below.

Poison Ivy leaves

The allergy source comes from a clear oil in the plant’s sap. If the plant oil remains in contact with the skin for 10 to 15 minutes, an allergic reaction can occur. The resulting rash begins after 12 to 48 hours of the exposure. Mild cases can last 5 to 12 days. More severe cases can last up to 30 days or longer.


How does poison ivy rash look like?

The allergic reaction of poison ivy rash can range from mild red bumps to an intense allergic reaction of swelling, blistering, and oozing. Here are some pictures that help you to identify them.


What are the symptoms of poison ivy rash?

The signs and symptpms of the rash include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Difficulty breathing, if you’ve inhaled the smoke from burning poison ivy.

The rash often looks like a staight line and may spread out if you touch some comtaminated objects or pet fur.


What causes poison ivy rash?

Poison ivy rash is caused by the sap oil called urushiol. The oil is sticky, so it can easily attaches to you skin, clothing, tools and pet’s fur. You can get an allergic reaction from:

  • Direct Touch. If you touch the leaves, stem roots and berries of the plant, you may have a reaction.
  • Touching contaminated objects. If you walk through some poison ivy and then later touch your shoes or trousers, you may get some urushiol on your hands. Then by touching or rubbing you face or body without noticing it, you may be allergic.
  • Inhaling smoke from the burning plants. The oil can be vaporized if you put fire on the poison ivy.

A poison ivy rash itself is not contagious. The blister fluid doesn’t contain urushiol and won’t spread the rash. If you think you get poison ivy rash from another person, you may have touched the urushiol on that person’s clothing.

What are the treatments and home remedies for the poison ivy rash?

You generally will not need to see the doctor for a poison ivy rash, because it often goes away on its own in two to three weeks. However, the intense itching may be hard to bear. You can take some self-care methods to ease the itching and make the healing process faster.

  • Cool Compresses

Try using a towel or wash cloth soaked in plain tap water, Epson salt water, or astringent solution on the rash. This will relieve the intense itching and make you feel better. Do it a couple of times a day

  • Lotions

After cooling your skin, coat the rash with a lotion such as Calamine. This helps to further relieve the itching and dry up the blisters.

  • Antihistamines

Benadryl is available over-the-counter without prescription and can also help with the itching. Taking Benadryl at nighttime will make most people drowsy and help them sleep through the night without itching.

  • Steroids

In moderate to severe cases of poison ivy rash, it is a good idea to see your doctor. Sometimes an oral corticosteroid such as prednisone may be useful.


How to prevent poison ivy rash?

It is important for people who are at risk of contacting with the plants to take preventions. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Avoid the plants. Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac in all seasons. When hiking or engaging in other activities that might expose you to these plants, try to stay on cleared pathways. Keep pets from running through wooded areas so their fur will not be contaminated.
  • Wear protective clothing. If needed, protected your skin by wearing boots, pants, gloves and long sleeves.
  • Apply a barrier cream. Try over-the-counter skin products to protect your skin from the oily resin that causes poison ivy rash.
  • Remove or kill the plants. You can apply an herbicide or just pull them out of the ground. Afterwards remove the gloves and thoroughly wash the gloves and your hands. Don’t burn poison ivy or related plants, because the smoke also carries the toxic oil.
  • Wash your skin or your pet’s fur. Within 30 minutes after exposure, use soap and water to gently wash off the harmful resin from your skin.
  • Clean contaminated objects. If you think you’ve been exposed to poison ivy, wash your clothing promptly with detergent — ideally in a washing machine.


Keywords: basics of poison ivy rash; symptoms; causes; treatments; home remedies; photos; images; prevention

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.