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What Does Poison Ivy Look Like? Establish Poison Ivy Rash and Vegetation

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans or Toxicodendron rydbergii) and its cousins, poison oak and poison sumac, develop extensively all through North America. Whereas not actually toxic, all of them trigger a painful, itchy rash upon contact because of the oil (known as urushiol) of their leaves, stems, and roots. Studying to determine poison ivy and the rash it causes can assist with each therapy and prevention.

Poison Ivy Rash

The urushiol in poison ivy, oak, and sumac stays within the roots, stems, and leaves of the plant whether or not it is alive, dried up, or lifeless, so you will get a poison ivy rash even within the winter.

When you assume you’ve got touched poison ivy, instantly wash your pores and skin and garments with cleaning soap and funky water or a poison ivy cleanser to:

  • Take away as a lot urushiol as attainable
  • Reduce the severity of the rash
  • Stop the oil from spreading in your physique or round your private home

Poison ivy vegetation ought to by no means be burned as a result of the vapors can carry urushiol by way of the air and trigger harmful irritation of the airway if they’re inhaled.


Signs of poison ivy rash develop anyplace from 1 to 7 days after publicity, relying on how a lot urushiol is current, the pores and skin’s thickness, and the way delicate the particular person is.

A poison ivy rash has the next options:

  • Itching
  • Painful blisters or vesicles crammed with fluid
  • Crimson bumps that seem in straight strains or streaks
  • Swelling

The signs of poison ivy rash can worsen over the times following contact. The rash tends to take longer to look on areas with thicker pores and skin, akin to elbows and knees.

Though it might be troublesome (particularly for kids), strive to not scratch the affected areas, as this could trigger infections to develop. Nevertheless, it’s a fable that scratching and/or open blisters can unfold the rash to completely different areas of the physique or to different folks.


There isn’t any remedy for poison ivy rash aside from time. Poison ivy rash typically takes about 7-10 days to resolve.

Nevertheless, there are house cures that may assist relieve the signs and encourage therapeutic. Whereas the rash could be painful and worsening, it doesn’t typically require medical therapy. Some house cures to strive:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) cortisone: Topical steroid lotions and gels can reduce irritation and assist heal poison ivy rash sooner.
  • Anti-itch lotions: Quite a lot of lotions and lotions can assist soothe the itchiness of the rash, akin to Calamine Lotion, Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Pores and skin Lotion, and Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream.
  • Cool compresses: Apply cool, moist compresses to the itchy areas for 15 to half-hour a number of occasions a day.
  • Cool oatmeal baths: Cool or lukewarm oatmeal baths can assist relieve the itchiness and supply reduction whereas the rash heals.

When to Search Medical Consideration

Whereas poison ivy rash can often be handled at house, you must search pressing medical consideration in the event you expertise any of those extreme signs:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling, particularly on the face
  • Bother swallowing

You also needs to search medical consideration if the rash is in your face, genitals, or a big space of your physique. Your physician could prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroids to hurry the therapeutic course of.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

Though poison ivy is not the one plant with leaves that develop in clusters of three, the adage “leaves of three, go away them be” is a brilliant option to keep away from coming into contact with it. Studying learn how to determine poison ivy, oak, and sumac by a number of traits will assist be sure that you recognize precisely which vegetation to keep away from.

There are two forms of poison ivy in the USA: japanese and western. The western kind is a low-growing shrub that’s sometimes underneath 3 ft tall. Jap poison ivy is a vine that may develop fairly lengthy, both alongside the bottom or as a fuzzy root-covered vine climbing up tree trunks.

  • Leaves: Each japanese and western poison ivy have inexperienced, 2- to 4-inch-long leaves that develop in teams of three. Younger vegetation could show reddish, droopy leaves. Mature poison ivy leaves are clean, both shiny or boring, and switch shiny purple and yellow within the fall. The leaf edges could be lobed or clean.
  • Flowers and berries: Within the spring, small yellow flowers bloom near the vine of the plant. Later in the summertime, the blossoms are changed by mild inexperienced, grey, or white berries.
  • Roots and stems: Poison ivy stems are thornless. They may root the place they make contact with the bottom, which makes the plant troublesome to kill as a result of items of the stem and roots can develop into new vegetation.

The place It is Positioned

Poison ivy grows all through the USA except for Alaska, Hawaii, the rainforests of Washington state, and a few arid deserts of the west. It may be present in forests and wetlands, on seashores, alongside streams, and even in city parks and yards.

Poison ivy thrives in partial shade, so it is extra widespread alongside the sting of forests and trails than in utterly shaded areas or sunny spots.

Nevertheless, it is sensible to maintain an eye fixed out even within the deep woods, as this plant is ready to develop in a variety of circumstances.

The 2 forms of poison ivy do have barely completely different geographic ranges:

  • Jap poison ivy: As its title suggests, japanese poison ivy is native to New England and grows prolifically within the japanese components of North America, although it may be discovered as far west as Arizona.
  • Western poison ivy: The time period “western” is considerably deceptive, as western poison ivy grows everywhere in the U.S. It’s discovered throughout the western states, the Nice Plains, and within the northeast.

Different Kinds to Look ahead to

Poison oak and sumac are in the identical genus as poison ivy (Toxicodendron) and include the identical pores and skin irritant, urushiol. Whereas the phrases are sometimes used interchangeably, there are variations in look between poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

What Does Poison Oak Look Like?

Poison oak has three leaflets like poison ivy, however its leaves have rounded edges (much like oak leaves). Their undersides are fuzzy and are typically lighter inexperienced than poison ivy.

The plant can be extra shrub-like with out the lengthy vining stems that poison ivy usually shows. Poison oak grows principally west of the Rocky Mountains.

What Does Poison Sumac Look Like?

Poison sumac has greater than three leaves. In reality, it may have seven to 13 clean leaflets organized in pairs alongside a slender stem. It seems like a shrub or small tree that may attain a peak of 25 ft. Within the fall, poison sumac has purple stems with orange-red leaves.

This plant is commonest within the southeastern United States, though it can be discovered within the Nice Lakes area and within the northeast.

Ideas for Avoiding

As a result of the slightest contact with poison ivy could cause a rash, shield your self and your loved ones by taking precautions if you end up outdoor:

  • Put on the appropriate clothes: When spending time in areas the place poison ivy thrives, put on lengthy pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and boots with tall socks.
  • Put on gloves: If working in an space the place you may come into contact with poison ivy, put on gloves and ensure they’re lengthy sufficient to cowl the ends of your shirt sleeves, and don’t contact your face or every other uncovered areas.
  • Select the proper footwear: Boots are finest in the event you’re mountain climbing as a result of they’ll shield your ankles and ft. All the time put on closed-toe sneakers anyplace poison ivy is perhaps rising.
  • Keep away from areas the place poison ivy is widespread: Persist with the center of paths and trails, avoiding shortcuts by way of the woods.
  • Know what to search for: Be taught the figuring out options of all three vegetation, and educate your children learn how to spot them, too.
  • Change garments and clear gear afterward: As a result of touching clothes, pets, or different supplies that got here into contact with the plant can switch the irritating oils to your pores and skin, wash every little thing with water and cleaning soap (together with pets) after any attainable publicity.
  • Use a poison ivy pores and skin cleanser: If you recognize you’ve got touched poison ivy, utilizing a product akin to Tecnu Excessive (which mixes an exfoliant with a cleanser to take away the urushiol) can assist cut back your possibilities of growing a rash.
  • Use protecting lotion: Bentoquatam lotion (offered as Ivy Block) can stop poison ivy rashes by defending your pores and skin from the plant’s oils. Apply it quarter-hour earlier than attainable publicity to the plant, after which each 4 hours afterward. Ask your physician earlier than utilizing on kids underneath the age of 6.

Bentoquatam can’t be used as a therapy for an current rash; it’s only a preventative measure.

A Phrase From Verywell

Even in the event you can determine poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac, it is attainable to stumble upon it unintentionally or get a rash by way of contact with the oils on pets or garments. When you begin growing a rash, you should definitely administer house cures or OTC therapies as quickly as attainable to alleviate your signs. You too can name your healthcare supplier when you have any issues.

Verywell Household makes use of solely high-quality sources, together with peer-reviewed research, to help the details inside our articles. Learn our editorial course of to study extra about how we fact-check and preserve our content material correct, dependable, and reliable.
  1. U.S. Forest Service. Welcome to the Forest Service: A information for volunteers.

  2. Des Moines College of Medication and Well being Sciences. Every little thing you’ll want to find out about poison ivy.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

  4. College of Massachusetts Amherst Middle for Agriculture, Meals, and the Atmosphere. Poison ivy.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Affiliation. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac: learn how to deal with the rash.

  6. Rocky Mountain Analysis Station; Fireplace Sciences Laboratory. Toxicodendron radicans, T. rydbergii.

  7. Military Public Well being Middle. Poison Sumac Truth Sheet.

  8. U.S. Nationwide Library of Medication. Bentoquatam topical.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD

Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for kids for greater than 20 years.

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