Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Allergy
What Causes Poison Oak and Ivy Rash?
There are substances in poison ivy (which also can be found in “poison oak” and “poison sumac”) which most people are allergic to when it touches their skin. Touching these plants will lead to transference of the plant “juice” (or resin) to the skin and cause an allergic reaction. This transference can occur with direct or indirect contact, for example from a pet or an item of clothing.
Is Poison Ivy Contagious?
No, it isn’t contagious. Fluids within the blisters won’t spread the rash. The only way another person can get the rash is to be in contact with the resin.
When Does The Rash Begin?
The rash may begin anywhere from 1 to 10 days after touching the plant. In patients who have had poison ivy more frequently (that is they are more sensitive to the plant), the rash usually begins earlier after exposure. In the first episode of poison ivy, the rash may take many days to start.
Poison ivy usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks and during the first week or two new spots will appear.
- Mild poison ivy rashes can be left alone and they will heal by themselves, except for using Calamine Lotion or other anti-itch creams.
- In severe cases steroids may be given by mouth. It is often safe to take these medications short periods of time (2 to 3 weeks) but you must consult with your physician before taking this medication.
Prevention of Poison Ivy
The only effective prevention is avoiding contacting the plant resins. If you feel that you have touched poison ivy, try to wash the skin within the first 15 minutes after being exposed.