Leaves of three — let them be! You may be familiar with this saying from your childhood when you headed outdoors to play. Poison ivy is a common plant that is most often distinguished by its three leaves and its ability to cause a disruptive, itchy rash when it comes in contact with your skin. However, there are many misconceptions about poison ivy that you need to be aware of as the summer approaches and you spend more time outdoors with your family.
- It’s not the plant itself that causes the rash, it’s the oil that the leaves release when they get injured. When poison ivy leaves get bumped, torn or brushed up against, they emit an oil called urushiol. This is the substance that triggers the itchy rash and can be easily spread. Leaves that have already released the oil may look shiny or have black spots of resin.
- Poison ivy comes in several types and can look different at various times of the year In fact, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain the same rash-causing oil.
- The poison ivy rash can appear hours after contact or up to five days later.Everyone’s allergic skin response is different. You may start to itch almost immediately after urushiol contact or the rash could be more delayed.
- You don’t have to come in contact with the poison ivy leaves to get the rash.Since the oil of the plant is the allergen, it can be transmitted from clothes, your dog or even from the air if someone is burning the plant.
- Not all people are allergic to poison ivy and not all poison ivy rashes can be treated at home.About 60% to 80% of the population will experience a skin reaction to poison ivy, but that leaves a small number of people unaffected. Likewise, most poison ivy rashes can be effectively treated with over-the-counter topical creams or antihistamines. Most cases are completely resolved within 1 to 2 weeks. However, if the rash is severe or not getting better, we recommend you seek poison ivy treatment from a dermatologist. Sometimes a prescription medication or steroid injection is needed.
For tips on how to avoid and/or treat poison ivy skin rashes, please contact Olansky Dermatology Associates. We are skin care experts with vast experience in treating poison ivy and other allergic skin reactions.