Don’t scratch that itch! Is it poison ivy?


​Poison ivy grows everywhere in the United States and chances are, you’ve encountered it at least once throughout your life. It causes itching, irritation and sometimes a painful rash in most people that touch it. 

How to identify poison ivy

1. Cluster of three leaflets
2. Lack of thorns
3. Each group of leaflets grows on its own stem, which connects to the main vine

How do I get poison ivy?

You get poison ivy by touching the plant, or touching something that has touched the plant, like clothing or a pet. The sap of the plant causes an allergic reaction to the skin.

How do I know if I have poison ivy?

You will know you have been exposed to poison ivy if you have just a slight, irritated, itchy spot that develops into a reddish color rash. Even just a small poison ivy rash can be one of the itchiest experiences a person will have. 

What to do if you have been exposed to poison ivy

If you know you’ve been exposed to poison ivy you should rinse your skin with cold water and soap immediately. For up to 6 hours, washing with soap and water or alcohol may help remove the sap. 

It is also important to immediately wash any clothing that was in contact with the ivy plant to avoid re-exposure to the sap. 

Common remedies for poison ivy

For serious cases, see a doctor.  For less serious cases these remedies have been known to ease itching associated with poison ivy:

  • Over the counter hydrocortisone ointment 
  • Over the counter Benadryl
  • Calamine lotion
  • Oatmeal bath (Grind 1 cup oatmeal to a powder, add to cool bath water)
  • Baking soda bath (Add 1 cup baking soda to cool bath water)
  • Aloe vera
  • Cold compress

How long does poison ivy last?

The rash can last anywhere from one week to three weeks depending on severity and how you treat it. Prescription lotions can help the rash go away much faster. 

Is poison ivy contagious?

Poison ivy is only contagious if you are exposed to the sap from the plant. A poison ivy rash itself is not contagious and the sap from the plant is generally gone by the time a rash appears on a person’s skin.