Poison ivy rash occurs when the skin comes in contact with the leaves, stems or roots of poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. These surfaces contain a resin called urushiol, which causes the rash in about half of those who touch or brush against them.
Aside from the bothersome irritation of the rash symptoms, there are almost no long-term effects of poison ivy rash. One exception is when sufferers excessively scratch or pick at the rash, which could lead to delayed recovery or even scarring.
What are the symptoms?
Typical symptoms of poison ivy rash include:
Poison ivy rash symptoms usually appear fairly quickly – about 12 to 48 hours after contact. Symptoms may linger for two to three weeks and almost always require some form of treatment, even if it is just an over-the-counter anti-itch cream.
Once the symptoms are present, care must be taken to ensure that it does not spread to other parts of the body through touch.
Who gets it?
Poison ivy rash can appear on the skin of anyone who comes in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. The transfer of urushiol may occur when hiking or camping in wooded areas where the plants are more likely to grow. Poison ivy rash may also develop from coming in contact with pets who have brushed against one of the plants.
Those who are hiking or camping in likely areas who do not immediately wash their skin or clothing are more likely to develop poison ivy rash, as are those who do not use special skin creams that can reduce the likelihood of a rash.
For mild cases of poison ivy rash (that is, cases in which the itching is tolerable), regular, thorough cleansing of the area is in order. For more severe cases, a corticosteroid may be prescribed. Oral antibiotics are another, though lesser-used option.