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Poison Ivy FAQ

poison ivyWhat does poison ivy look like?

Poison ivy plants take the form of vines in NC and shrubbery in AZ, but it always has three leaves branching off a single stem. Poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac all cause similar types of rashes . Poison ivy grows in every region in the US, except the desert, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Why does poison ivy make me itch?

Poison ivy plants contain an oily resin or sap called urushiol. Urushiol causes an itchy skin rash in 85% of the population.  Urushiol will stick to clothing, shoes, tools and even pet’s fur. Anytime you touch it – even months later – you risk getting a rash.

Is poison ivy contagious?

Yes, but poison ivy can only be transferred when urushiol gets on the skin. When someone with poison ivy gets urushiol on a garden tool and doesn’t wash it off, it’s very possible you can get poison ivy if you come in contact with that tool. Even uprooted or dead poison ivy plants aren’t safe because urushiol is active for up to five years.

Can poison ivy be prevented?

The best way to avoid the rash is to avoid the plant. Keep your dogs close when walking in the woods; they get urushiol on their fur and pass poison ivy to humans. If you know you touched poison ivy, wash it off immediately. Urushiol absorbs into the skin in fewer than 3 minutes. The rash will normally last for 12 to 15 days.

Can poison ivy get infected?

Yes. Repeated opening of the blisters in the poison ivy rash leaves you subject to infection. As much as humanly possible, try not to scratch the rash.  

What can I do about the itch?

For the most part, poison ivy is uncomfortable as opposed to dangerous.  Try over-the-counter medications to relieve the itch, like calamine lotion or antihistamines.

When do I need to go to the doctor for poison ivy?

Find the FastMed walk-in clinic nearest you if the poison ivy rash spreads to your face or genital area, the blisters on your rash continue to ooze after two weeks, or you get a fever. Never burn poison ivy plants: inhaling the smoke can cause serious health complications if urushiol gets in your esophagus or lungs. If you think you’ve inhaled poison ivy smoke, immediately seek medical treatment.

Other articles:

Itchy Skin | Clinic: Walk-in Medical Care  | Tuberculosis |  Upper Respiratory Infection  |  Poison Oak  


About FastMed

FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates nearly 200 centers in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its centers, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit

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