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Poison ivy rash

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Poison ivy rash is caused when your skin encounters the oily resin found in plants including poison ivy. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the oily resin called urushiol. This oil is present in the leaves, stems, and roots of the plants.

It is important to wash your skin away after you’ve being exposed with the oil unless you are not sensitive to the oil. Washing your skin will reduce your chances of developing a poison ivy rash.

If you do develop the rash, it can last for weeks and is very itchy which can lead to discomfort and interrupt with your daily routine, work, and school.

Mild cases of poison ivy rash can be treated at home with soothing lotions and cold baths. Severe cases of poison ivy rash may require prescription medication for rashes that are widespread or has reached places such as your face or genitals.

Signs and symptoms of poison ivy rash

Poison ivy rash

The rash manifests as a straight line because of the way your skin brushes against the leaves of the plant.

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Breathing difficulties, this only occur if you’ve inhaled the smoke from burning poison ivy

The rash manifests as a straight line because of the way your skin brushes against the leaves of the plant. The rash will appear to spread out if in contact with clothing or any other material with the oil. You can also transfer the oil to different parts of your body with your fingers. The reaction usually develops after twelve (12) to forty-eight (48) hours after exposure and can last up to three (3) weeks.

The seriousness of the rash is based on how much of the oil is exposed to skin. Your skin must come into direct contact with urushiol to develop the rash. Blister fluid does not spread the rash.

When to consult a doctor

You should see a doctor when:

  • The rash becomes severe or widespread on your body
  • You’ve inhaled smoke from burning poison ivy
  • Your skin continues to swell
  • The rash affects your face or genitals
  • Blisters on your skin are oozing pus
  • Fever higher than 100 F
  • Rash that does not settle within a few weeks

Outdoor activities can increase the risk of your exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. These include those who work in agriculture, those who go hunting, those who work with construction, those who go camping, and those who go fishing from the shoreline.

Preventive measures

To prevent poison ivy rash, you can:

  • Avoid the plants, learn how to identify them to avoid accidental contact with the plant.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, and gloves.
  • Remove or kill the plants, if you’ve identified a plant that’s known to cause poison ivy rash then you may use herbicide, or you can pull it out from the ground, including the roots.
  • Immediately wash your skin after you’ve been exposed to the plant.
  • Wash objects contaminated by the oil.
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