Poison ivy or poison oak is a shrub found in most of the regions of North America. When a person accidentally touches its leaves he/she may develop skin rash and irritation. Oily resin like particle present in the plant causes severe itching. Toxicodendron radicans or Toxicodendron vemix is the botanical name for poison ivy and poison sumac respectively. These plants are largely found on the roadside and riverbanks and also in open fields. It can grow as lush plant even on your backyard.
Poison ivy plant can be recognized as small plant containing three leaflets that grow in clusters. The color of the leaves is mostly fresh green and its flowers are either green or yellowish green in color. The body produces antibodies instantly responding to the allergic reaction caused by the powerful resin of the plant. Urushiol is the oily resin that causes allergic rash on the skin. This oil is found in leaves, stem, and flowers and even on the root of these plants.
Quick Facts On Poison Ivy :
- Poison ivy or poison sumac is a plant that causes skin rashes when you come into contact with the leaves.
- Poison ivy rash does not spread to others and is not contagious.
- It can cause redness, itching and swelling of skin.
- It is the oil present in the leaves that induces rash.
- Symptoms would disappear within two weeks.
- Not all the people who accidentally touch this plant would develop rash. Only sensitive people are prone to get skin rash.
- Washing your skin right away after getting in touch with this plant is the best way to prevent rash.
- You can apply cool moisturizing cream or soothing lotion on the affected area to reduce the symptoms.
- Itchy Rash :
The person who comes into contact with poison ivy or poison sumac plant can develop itchy rash on his body.
- Irritation/Blisters :
Some of the common signs of exposure of poison ivy include swelling of skin, severe itching, irritation and formation of blisters on the skin. The rash can look linear or as patches on the skin. Hands are more vulnerable area that develops rash.
- Breathing Problem :
People who have inhaled the smoke of this plant can develop choking and difficulty in breathing. Your clothing may have touched the plant accidentally and this can cause severe irritation and itching.
It Is The Oil That Causes Rash :
The intensity of itching depends on the amounts of oil (urushiol) that you have contacted from the plant. The person may spread the oil by mistake to other parts of his body while rubbing the skin with his fingers. The symptoms may appear on the skin within few hours of exposure to oil of the plant. The symptoms may lasts for 2-3 weeks causing extensive itching and irritation. More the oil of the plant (urushiol) the more will be the rash and itching.
You should consult your physician at once if :
- Allergic reaction is severe and extensive
- You have difficulty in breathing after inhaling the smoke of the plant
- You have blisters and swelling of the skin
- Blisters are oozing out fluid or pus
- Rash has spread to your eyes or genitals
- You have fever after getting rash
Poison ivy or poison sumac contains special oily particle called urushiol that causes allergic rash. This oil can be very sticky and hence you can accidentally touch it with your fingers or it can rub against your clothing or tools. Even the pet’s fur can contain oily resin from this plant which can cause itching and rash.
Rash can be caused by 3 methods :
- By Direct Contact :
If you directly touch the leaves or stem of poison ivy
- By Touching The Object :
Garden tools or your shoes can contain oily resin of the plant. When you touch these objects you can develop rash. You may also transfer it to other body parts, by rubbing the fingers due to itching.
- By Smoke :
Poison ivy plants emit smoke while burnt. When you accidentally inhale this smoke the resin particles can enter your lungs directly causing choking and breathing problem.
Whether Poison Ivy Rash is Contagious?
No. The rash does not spread to others directly. But when a person touches the oily resin of the plant from the clothing or objects, he can get rash.
Who Are At Risk?
Any person who gets into contact with poison ivy plant can get rash. People who are involved in farming, gardening, and construction workers are at high risk of getting this rash. Forest workers and groundskeepers can also develop poison ivy rash. Outdoor activities like landscaping, camping, fishing and forestry can put you at risk of getting this rash.
If you develop rash and irritation after touching the plant it can be due to poison ivy or sumac. Your doctor will be able to find out the rash by simply looking at it.
Poison ivy rash will disappear within 2-3 weeks without any treatment. But if you are worried or have increased symptoms you can consult your doctor for sure. Oral corticosteroids are prescribed for reducing the symptoms. Topical creams that contain steroids are also effective in treating poison ivy rash.
Home Remedies :
- Your first reaction after knowing poison ivy rash is to wash the entire body with warm water thoroughly. It is the best way to remove any excess of oily resin from the body.
- Remove the clothing and wash it twice with detergent and warm water. Allow it to dry on bright sunlight.
- Most of the symptoms of rash will disappear if you could wash the affected area with lukewarm water within few minutes. You need to wash away the resin before it gets absorbed into the skin.
- You need to wash your fingernails thoroughly since particles of resin can remain there.
- Apply wet compress on the affected part of the body to control itching.
- You can apply calamine lotion liberally on the body to manage rash.
- Taking oatmeal bath can help in spreading of rash to other body parts.
- Over the counter antihistamines like Benadryl can be taken.
Tips for Prevention :
Firstly you need to identify the plant on seeing it. You can Google to know more information about poison ivy or poison sumac. Always wear protective gloves and clothing when you are spending time outdoors in new area. By wearing long boots and pants the chances of getting the resin on your body reduces considerably. If you find these plants in your backyard do not burn them. Carefully remove them by wearing gloves and bury the plant.
Wash your hands and body thoroughly after every visit to the farm or forests. Wash the pet’s fur with soapy water if you suspect contamination of oily resin of the plant on the pet. Washing the body within few minutes of exposure to plant can prevent formation of rash. If you are planning to visit new forest it is better to apply a barrier cream to protect your skin from allergic resin.