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How do you know when you have poison ivy: Poison ivy rash – Symptoms and causes

What does the rash look like?

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Poison Ivy – Poison Ivy Treatment

What is poison ivy?

Poison ivy is a type of toxic plant. It is very common in most parts of the United States. Poison ivy often grows low to the ground, resembling a weed or shrub. It also can grow taller as a vine, along plants, trees, or poles. Both forms have stems with 3 leaves. The leaves change color with the seasons. They may produce whitish flowers or berries.

Symptoms of poison ivy

The main symptom of poison ivy is a rash. This is otherwise known as contact dermatitis. The rash can be mild or severe. It may appear right away or 1 to 2 days after contact. It is marked by redness and swelling. Small blisters may form and become itchy or painful. Try not to scratch the blisters. Bacteria from under your fingernails can get into the blisters and cause an infection.

What causes poison ivy?

Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol. Most people are allergic to it. This oil sticks to your skin when you come into contact with it. You can get the oil on your skin by:

  • Touching the poison ivy plant
  • Touching clothing or shoes that have the oil on them
  • Touching lawn or garden tools that have the oil on them
  • Touching pets that have been around poison ivy and have the oil on their fur
  • Burning the poison ivy plant (the oil from the plant is carried in the smoke)

How is poison ivy diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a poison ivy rash by reviewing your symptoms. They will also examine your rash to make sure it’s not caused by an allergy or other medical condition.

Can poison ivy be prevented or avoided?

You can prevent and avoid poison ivy most of the time. Look out for the plant any time you are outside. A well-known saying to remember is, “Leaves of three, let them be.” Other tips to prevent poison ivy include:

  • Wear protective clothing when you work in the lawn or garden. This includes long sleeves and pants, as well as gloves.
  • Wash your clothes and shoes after being outside.
  • Clean your gloves and tools after each use.
  • Wash your pets if you think they have come into contact with the plant. Most pets are not allergic to the oil, but they can spread it to you.

These tips are especially important if you know you have a severe allergy to poison ivy.

The poison ivy rash is not contagious. But you can spread poison ivy to another person if they touch the oil on you or your clothing.

Poison ivy treatment

Wash your skin right away if you come into contact with poison ivy or another toxic plant. Its oil can bond to your skin within minutes. Use soap and cool water. This can help remove the oil or prevent the oil from spreading. Products that contain certain cleansers, such as mineral oil, may help.

Some over-the-counter medicines help relieve rash symptoms, such as pain and itching. These include:

  • Hydrocortisone creams (one brand name: Cortizone-10)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Antihistamine tablets (one brand name: Benadryl)

Oatmeal baths and wet compresses can help reduce symptoms as well.

Living with poison ivy

Most cases of poison ivy go away on their own in 1 to 3 weeks. After about a week, the blisters should start to dry up and the rash will begin to fade. Severe cases may last longer, have worse symptoms, and cover more of your body.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever over 100° F (37.8° C)
  • You have a hard time breathing
  • The rash is in your eyes, in your mouth, or on your genital area
  • There is pus coming from your blisters
  • The rash covers large areas of your body
  • The rash does not get better after 1 week

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How long does the oil from poison ivy remain active?
  • Is poison ivy contagious?
  • Why are some people more allergic to poison ivy than others?
  • Can my allergy to poison ivy get worse over time?
  • What are the side effects of severe poison ivy?
  • I have poison ivy in my backyard. Is there a safe way to get rid of it?


National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Can a dog get poisoned by poison ivy

Can a dog get poisoned by ivy? If you’ve ever wondered if your dog might itch after coming into contact with this itch-causing plant, then this article is for you. Here’s the whole truth about animals and poison ivy, including the risk of what it can do to you and your dog.

What is poison ivy?

Poison ivy is a plant recognizable by its three ivy-like leaves that contain urushiol, an oil that commonly causes an itchy rash in humans. Other plants containing this oil are poison oak, which resembles oak leaves, and poison sumac. They are commonly found in the wild but occasionally invade parks and yards. Visit the US Food and Drug Administration website for more information on how to identify each of these plants.

Can dogs get poisoned by ivy?

Dogs can get a poison ivy rash, but this is rare, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Most pets’ skin is protected from the rash-causing oil by the coat. But dogs with sparse or very short coats are more susceptible to rashes, although that doesn’t mean they are more responsive to urushiol. However, the biggest danger for most animals is poison ivy ingestion. This is usually limited to an upset stomach, but a severe allergic reaction can cause a dog to go into anaphylactic shock, which causes the airways to swell up, preventing the dog from breathing. Although this is not as common as in allergic people, it is worth keeping an eye on the animal just in case. If you know or suspect that your dog has ingested poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, keep a close eye on it and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Poison ivy symptoms to look out for

Here are a few common symptoms that your dog has come into contact with or ingested with one of these itchy plants:

  • Redness, swelling, and itching at the site of contact.
  • Blisters and scabs.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Considering the possible risk of anaphylaxis and the fact that these signs may indicate something more serious, if you notice any of these symptoms, it is best to contact your veterinarian.

Dog and Poison Ivy Hazard to Humans

While the risk to your dog is low from contact between a dog and poison ivy, there is a good chance that they can transfer poison ivy to you, another person, or even other pets. If the juice or oil from one of these plants gets on your dog’s coat, it can affect you when you pet the dog, or if he rubs against you, or even if you touch his bed or sit on the same chair or cushion where he sat.

To reduce the risk of exposure to poison ivy through your puppy, keep him on a leash when you go hiking or for a walk, and get rid of any of these plants if you spot them in your yard. The Poison Pet Helpline also recommends bringing a towel and a pair of gloves with you so you can dry your pet safely after the hike. And if there’s a chance your dog may have had contact with a poisonous plant, bathe him right away, preferably with gloves – and don’t forget to wash his collar and leash. If you’ve come into contact with poison ivy yourself, it’s a good idea to thoroughly wash your dog (as well as yourself) to prevent transferring the oil from you to him.

Treating Poison Ivy Poison in Dogs

If your dog does develop a poison ivy rash, it is best to bathe it with a dog shampoo containing (oatmeal). Stomach problems caused by ingestion of a poisonous plant should resolve on their own, but still call your veterinarian for their opinion. But if your pet shows any signs of breathing problems, contact your veterinarian immediately.