What is poison ivy?
- “Poison ivy” is the term used to refer to contact dermatitis
- Poison ivy is a rash that erupts after you have come into contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac.
- This is 1 of the most common allergic reactions in the country.
- A sap that comes from these plants causes an allergic response that triggers the rash on our skin. This sap is colorless, but turns brown to black after exposure to air.
- You can come into contact with this sap from any cut or crushed area of the leaves or the plant.
- Poison ivy, oak and sumac grow almost everywhere in the United States.
- The oil of these plants can be spread by many things
- Direct contact with the sap
- Indirect contact with objects that have come into contact with the sap, such as shoes, clothes, sports equipment, garden utensils, or fur of animals
- Airborne contact with the smoke of the burning bush
What does the plant look like?
- Poison ivy: This plant usually grows as a shrub in this area, but may grow as a vine. It has 3 leaflets to form its leaves.
- Poison oak: This plant is usually a shrub, but it can grow as a vine. It has 3 leaflets that form the leaves.
- Poison sumac: This plant grows in standing water, such as peat bogs. Each leaf has 7 leaflets.
- The reaction usually begins within 12 – 48 hours after exposure.
- The rash can affect almost any part of the body.
- Burning sensation
- Some people can develop swelling in the throat, dizziness, and difficulty breathing if the reaction is severe.
- You may have heard the saying “Leaflets three, let them be”. This refers to the way the leaves grow in poison ivy and oak.
- If you know you have been exposed to one of the plants within the previous 6 hours, you may:
- Remove all your clothes and shoes that touched the plant. Wash them as you are able.
- Wash your skin with soap and water
- Apply rubbing alcohol the parts of the skin that are affected.
- Rinse with water
- Make sure you wash all clothes and shoes with hot water and a strong soap.
- Bathe any pets that have come into contact with the plants.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and face.
- Do not scratch or rub the rash.
- Take an over the counter antihistamine such as Claritin or Benedryl as directed on the label.
- Apply any of the following:
- Calamine lotion
- Zinc oxide ointment
- Paste made with baking soda; 3 teaspoons baking soda mixed with 1 teaspoon water
- Take a lukewarm bath. You may use an over the counter preparation such as Aveeno colloidal oatmeal to the water.
- If there is no relief with these measures, please see a provider.
- Scratching poison ivy blisters will spread the rash.
False: The fluid in the blisters will not spread the rash. The rash is spread by the sap in the plant.
- Poison ivy is catching.
False: The rash is an allergic reaction to the sap in the plant.
- Dead poison ivy plants are no longer toxic.
False: The sap in the plants can remain active for up to several years.
- Rubbing weeds on the skin will help.
False: There is no substance in the weeds that will relieve the symptoms of poison ivy.
- One way to protect against poison ivy is to keep yourself covered.
True: However, you need to wash your clothes and shoes after they have been exposed to the sap. Also, any uncovered areas are still vulnerable to the sap.
Back to the Common Ailments page
Last Updated 5/21/12
It's FLU SHOT Season!
Students get a FREE
flu shot in the
Wed. 9/24, 11 am-2 pm
Thur. 9/25, 1-4 pm
Wed. 10/1, 4-7 pm
Stay healthy this winter:
eat balanced meals
get adequate sleep
good hand washing
manage stress levels
We are here for you if you need us!
Your Health Center Staff