Poison Ivy

The Truth about Poison Ivy

Summer is still going strong. We all know to use sunscreen and bug spray to protect our skin from burns and bites, but are you protecting your skin from plants too? Poison ivy is one of the main causes of rashes and allergic reactions during the summer. Learn how to protect and heal your skin with these helpful tips from Amra Nasir, MD, with Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care.


Poison Ivy is a plant that produces an oil called urushiol. This oil causes an allergic reaction or rash when in contact with the skin. Anything that has touched poison ivy, such as clothes, shoes or gardening tools, can become contaminated and still spread the irritation.


Knowing how to identify poison ivy is the first step to help you avoid it. The leaves are in three-pointed leaf clusters that have a glossy surface with the edge either toothed or smooth. Be sure to cover your skin before you may encounter the plant. Common places you can find the plant are gardens and wooded areas. You can also apply ivy blocking cream to prevent your skin from absorbing urushiol.


The allergic reaction caused by poison ivy is known as contact dermatitis. Symptoms are swelling, redness, itching and painful blisters. The rash can take a few days to develop but may begin appearing within as early as 12 hours. The rash may start in one place on your body where the plant rubbed against your skin but can spread easily.


Luckily, poison ivy is not contagious. If left untreated, poison ivy rashes will clear on their own within two to three weeks. However, some remedies can help aid and speed up the healing process:

  • Avoid scratching: Scratching will prolong symptoms and possibly cause infection if you break the skin.
  • Wash your skin and clothes: Immediately washing your skin and clothes that have come in contact with the plant may lessen the severity of your reaction by removing some of the oil.
  • Take an antihistamine to help relieve itching.
  • Soothe your skin with lotions or creams that can help dry and ease itching such as, Aloe Vera, Colloidal Oatmeal, Calamine Lotion, Hydrocortisone Cream or Witch Hazel.

Following these simple tips will help protect your skin and keep you smiling throughout the summer.

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