Poison ivy is a weed best known for causing skin irritation. In extreme cases, it can cause life-threatening allergic reactions.
Irritation usually resolves on its own, but may require prescription medication or more serious intervention.
What happens during a reaction?
Where does poison ivy grow?
Poison ivy grows in most of the continental United States. It has two close cousins: poison oak and poison sumac. Poison oak grows along the West Coast and in the Southeast, including Texas. Poison sumac is mainly found in swamps of the Southeast.
All three plants produce urushiol, the sticky oil (which is not actually poisonous) that causes reactions. Due to control efforts, these plants are much less likely to be found in public places or near homes.
How does a harmless-looking plant cause so much trouble?
Urushiol can be transferred through contact with any part of a poison ivy plant. It cannot be transferred through contact with an active lesion on yourself or another person.
Urushiol remains active years after it is deposited on a surface. A pet that is allowed outdoors could carry urushiol on its fur. Strong winds can also carry urushiol and affect those who are very sensitive.
How common are cases of poison ivy?
If you are extremely allergic to poison ivy, you should carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®), which can provide relief until you can receive urgent treatment.
I think I may be having a poison ivy reaction...
Skin irritation usually occurs 12 to 72 hours after exposure. It will often begin as red streaks tracing the way in which the plant contacted your skin. Eventually, itching and blistering will follow. A doctor will be able to easily determine whether poison ivy is the cause.
How is poison ivy treated?
Should I be worried?
I hope to NEVER have a poison ivy reaction...
Poison ivy is not always serious, but it is never pleasant. When enjoying the outdoors, know how to identify these plants and take simple precautions to avoid a reaction. If you have recently ventured into greener, unkempt pastures and are beginning to feel an itch, stay mindful and see a doctor if you have any concerns.