How Soon Do You Get a Rash from Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy causes a red, itchy rash.
Poison ivy causes a red, itchy rash. (Image: Image by, courtesy of Diego Silvestre)

The rash that occurs after coming into contact with poison ivy can be mild or extremely severe. Knowing when symptoms first appear and how to treat them can help lead to a quick recovery from this sometimes uncomfortable condition.

What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is a common plant that can be a shrub or rope-like vine that is hairy with three leaves (either shiny-green or red in the fall). Occasionally, it may have yellow or green flowers or berries that are either amber or white to yellow-green in color. The leaves contain an oil that, when disturbed, can be released onto the skin, causing a mild or severe rash and other symptoms.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy

Within a few days of contact with the poison ivy plant, a rash appears in nearly 90 percent of those infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Swelling and itching can also be problematic, and non-contagious blisters filled with fluid or bumps may be present, as well.

Locale of Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be found in all states across the U.S. except California, Hawaii and Alaska. It can be found in forests and near streams, as well as along roads and around backyards, which makes it a threat to many people.

Complications of Poison Ivy

The rash associated with poison ivy can be severe enough to interfere with an individual's ability to work. The most severe complication associated with poison ivy occurs when the plant is burned and the poison is inhaled, which can lead to lung irritation.

Treatment of Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be treated with over-the-counter topical creams for mild rashes, while more severe rashes or inhalation of poison ivy should be treated by a doctor.

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