Story by: Sara Thompson on May 31, 2022
Spring has sprung in Kentucky, and with it comes those leaves of three: poison ivy. If you think you have poison ivy, here’s what you need to know.
Rashes from poison ivy and its relatives poison oak and poison sumac are caused by an allergic reaction to an oily substance called urushiol (pronounced yoo-ROO-shee-all). Urushiol is in the leaves, stems and roots of these plants and can cause an itchy rash.
“Poison ivy rashes can appear anywhere from four hours to up to a week after exposure,” said Rachel Alexander, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton eCare. “It depends on the person.”
A poison ivy rash will be red on light-skinned individuals and comes with itching, swelling and sometimes blisters. Inhaling smoke from burning poison ivy can cause difficulty breathing.
Not everyone has an allergic reaction to urushiol — about 15% of the population has no response to these plants. You don’t have to come into direct contact with the plant to have a reaction, especially if you have a stronger allergic response to urushiol. You can get a rash from touching something that has urushiol on it, such as animal fur or garden tools.
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According to Rachel, a poison ivy rash will clear up on its own.
“Most people have a rash for one to three weeks, but there are some reasons you might need to see a provider,” Rachel said.
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