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The allergic reaction that you get from touching a poison ivy plant is known as poison ivy dermatitis. Other forms of this plant that cause similar itchy rashes include poison sumac and poison oak. Once your skin has come into contact with the sap produced by these plants, the reaction, referred to by dermatologists as poison ivy dermatitis, begins.

If you don’t wash your hands properly, you risk spreading the poison ivy rash to other parts of your body or other people. This is due to the fact that the sap from the plant can remain underneath your fingernails for several days.


Poison ivy dermatitis is not limited to a specific age group of people. It can affect anyone who comes into physical contact with the plants. With that said, people who spend a good deal of time in the woods, for example, campers, hikers, and people who work outdoors a lot, are more likely to be affected.


The symptoms of poison ivy dermatitis include swelling, redness, itching and burning skin, and, in extreme cases, hives or blisters. The eye and mouth areas can be affected as well. All of this can occur between 8 and 48 hours after contact with a poison ivy plant.

Once the rash appears, it cannot be transmitted to another person, unless you have not properly washed the sap out from under your fingernails. The rashes can last between one to three weeks.


The first thing that you should do once you suspect that you have come into contact with poison ivy is to wash the affected area with cold water and soap. If you use warm or hot water, the pores on your skin can open and make the problem worse by letting more of the sap in. Any clothing or hiking gear that might have come into contact with the plant should be washed as well.

Since most poison ivy rashes go away on their own, they can be treated with over the counter skin care solutions like calamine lotion or anti-itch cream. Taking an oral antihistamine may also help. In more severe cases, a dermatologist can prescribe a steroid cream, or oral steroid regimen. However, if you have any trouble breathing or believe that you have swallowed or breathed in poison ivy, you should seek emergency medical care.

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