Not sure what caused your poison ivy/oak rash? Many people know
what a poison ivy or oak rash looks and feels like, but do not
really understand why the plants cause such a painful, itchy rash.
Once you understand how poison ivy, oak and sumac plants work, it
is easier to avoid a rash.
Poison ivy, oak and sumac all produce the same rash-causing,
resinous oil called urushiol (pronounced ooh-roo-she-all). It is
found in all parts of the plants including the leaves, stems and
roots. It can stay potent for many years, even on dead plants. For
some people, it can take a very small amount to cause a very big
85% of the population is allergic the urushiol found in poison
ivy, oak and sumac plants. It is your body's immune response to
this allergen that causes the painful rash. Depending on your
sensitivity to urushiol, your body's reaction can vary from mild to
severe. Poison ivy, oak and sumac rash symptoms can include:
- Itchy skin where you came in contact with the oil
- Redness or red streaks
- Hives or small bumps in the skin
- Fluid filled blisters that may leak. Note that the fluid in the
blisters does not cause the rash to spread, contrary to common
myths about poison ivy and oak.
Symptoms of poison ivy, oak or sumac rash usually start within a
day of coming in contact with urushiol, but can take as long as two
weeks to show up. Using an OTC treatment
for poison ivy can help alleviate the symptoms
for most people. For more severe reactions, it is best to consult a
In addition to coming in direct contact with the plant, you can
also get poison ivy, oak or sumac through secondary contamination.
Urushiol can stay on objects such as tools, clothing, gloves, and
shoes for several years. Your pets can also transfer the oil to you
if they run through the plants and get it on their fur. The best
way to prevent secondary contamination is to remove the oil from
any possible secondary sources.
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