What are the Different Poison Ivy Symptoms?

J.L. Drede

Poison ivy is a common plant found throughout most of North America. It causes a severe allergic reaction to most who come in contact with it. Approximately 75 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy in some degree. Poison ivy symptoms can vary from, as some people are more allergic to the plant than others. The most common symptom is contact dermatitis, a rash that usually shows up within 48 hours of contact. The rash may vary in severity. In some cases it may just be a red, itchy area of inflamed skin that causes mild discomfort, but other times the rash may break out into large bumps, hives or even blisters that leak.

Dizziness can be a severe symptom of poison ivy.
Dizziness can be a severe symptom of poison ivy.

Poison ivy symptoms are caused by an oil called urushiol that coats the plant. The same oil is found in poison oak and sumac. Urushiol can even rub off of poison ivy and still maintain its poisonous attributes. It is possible to contract poison ivy from a pet, gardening tools or hiking gear that has rubbed up against the plant. Usually only areas of the body that came into direct contact with urushiol will show poison ivy symptoms. It cannot spread to other parts of the body, nor is it contagious. Poison ivy rashes only comes from direct contact with the plant itself or the oil found on it.

A poison ivy rash may appear as a red, itchy rash marked by bumps.
A poison ivy rash may appear as a red, itchy rash marked by bumps.

Poison ivy symptoms can be persistent and stay prevalent for several weeks. Without any treatment, the rash from poison ivy may last anywhere from ten days to six weeks. Treatment for a mild rash caused by poison ivy include regularly washing the are with water, abstaining from digging and scratching, and applying calamine lotion to the affected area.

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Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.
Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.

More sever poison ivy symptoms may manifest after exposure, and these usually require medical attention. For people who are severely allergic to urushiol, the reaction will spread to parts of the body that didn't come into direct contact with the oil. Severe symptoms of poison ivy can include a fever, dizziness, and even difficulty breathing. Serious symptoms may also include the swelling of the throat and face, including the eyelids and mouth. During a serious reaction to poison ivy, the regular symptoms will also be more pronounced. The rash will be more inflamed and itchy, and the blisters will be widespread, larger and ooze more fluid. Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible in cases of severe reaction.

Poison ivy.
Poison ivy.
Itchy and inflamed skin may be a sign of poison ivy.
Itchy and inflamed skin may be a sign of poison ivy.
Poison ivy can cause severe itching.
Poison ivy can cause severe itching.
A bottle of calamine lotion, which can help with poison ivy.
A bottle of calamine lotion, which can help with poison ivy.
People with a severe case of poison ivy may run a mild fever.
People with a severe case of poison ivy may run a mild fever.
Poison ivy can cause blisters.
Poison ivy can cause blisters.

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Discussion Comments

ZipLine

@bear78-- Well, a poison ivy rash itself is often red. If that's the case, I think that's normal. But if the redness is spreading and affecting other parts, then you should see your doctor about it. I'm not an expert on this topic, but if symptoms are worsening or spreading, it's probably a sign that you are having a severe allergic reaction rather than a mild one.

If you also experience swelling at any point, then that's a medical emergency, especially if the swelling is affecting your face and throat. The article mentioned this as well. You may need care at a hospital.

bear78

Is it normal for the affected limb to become very red after contact with poison ivy? I have a rash on my hand but my hand seems to be turning red as well.

ddljohn

I've developed a poison ivy rash after hiking. I have no idea when I came in contact with the plant but it happened. Thankfully, I don't have any symptoms aside from the rash right now but the rash itself is very bothersome because it's so itchy.

I took an over-the-counter allergy medication and applied aloe vera on the rash. These helped for a while but now the itch is back. I have no idea how I'm going to sleep tonight.

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