Poison Ivy Rash

What is Poison Ivy Rash?

A Poison Ivy Rash is a dermatological condition that occurs when the person comes into direct contact with the poison ivy plant (or they come into direct contact with a person or object that has touched poison ivy) or inhales particles of the plant when it is burned. Poison ivy can grow as either a small shrub or a trailing vine depending on the area of the country in which it is found.

The rash that develops when a person comes into contact with the poison ivy plant is actually due to an allergic reaction to a specific substance found in the leaves of the plant as well as the stems and roots. This substance is known as urushiol and it is an oily resin.

The poison ivy rash that a person develops when they come into contact with urushiol can vary from person to person. Some people have a much stronger allergic reaction than others. The area of the body exposed, the duration of the exposure, and whether or not the person washes themselves off immediately after the fact and changes clothes to prevent further exposure.

What are the Symptoms of Poison Ivy Rash?

Poison ivy rashes can cause severe and intense itching and burning pain. If a person is highly sensitive to urushiol, the symptoms may begin more quickly after coming into contact with the poison ivy plant. However, the rash usually appears and symptoms develop between 12 and 48 hours after the initial exposure.

The rash will often occur in a straight line but can also be more spread out as well. Redness, swelling, and blistering can occur. In severe cases, the blisters may ooze pus, or the person may develop a fever. If poison ivy is inhaled, a person may experience extreme difficulty breathing which requires swift medical care.

How is Poison Ivy Rash Treated?

The treatment for a poison ivy rash depends on how severe it is. The majority of rashes can resolve with minimal treatment and self-care. Washing the skin that was exposed to poison ivy and removing and washing clothing can help to prevent the worsening and the spread of the rash. Over-the-counter antihistamine medications can help reduce the severity of the symptoms and lessen the immune system response to exposure as well. When the rash covers a large area of the body or a person has numerous blisters, prescription corticosteroids can also help to reduce inflammation and clear up the skin rash.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017