Poison ivy is a nasty toxin that generally causes a rash to form over the skin. Contrary to what many people believe, only contact with the plant oil will produce a rash. Contact with the oily substance that appear after initial infection is not contagious. When a poison ivy rash lingers for a prolonged period of time, serious consequences and health effects can occur.
If the oil from the poison ivy spreads all over the skin, it can create a large rash. Every area that the oil touches is susceptible. The best way to prevent a large rash is to bathe the area and wash all clothing that came into contact with the poison ivy. If some of the ivy oil remains on the skin, it can even get inside the body or in the eyes, causing serious problems.
When poison ivy starts to heal, it forms scaly patches on the skin similar to the healing patches after heavy burns. These scaly patches can take weeks or even months to fully heal. The skin can itch during healing, as well as causing mild pain.
In some cases, a poison ivy rash may become severe enough to cause the body to break out in a fever. If a fever occurs, contact a doctor right away. Common treatment for severe poison ivy symptoms, including fever, is steroid shots. A fever may come and go several times throughout the infection period.
The irritation of poison ivy may cause the skin to swell. This is particularly true for the fingers and the face. In some cases the rash may become so severe that an eye is swollen shut, or it becomes impossible to use fingers properly. If the infection becomes this bad, then contact a doctor right away for prescription-strength treatments.
If the poison ivy oil gets inside the body, through inhalation or by ingesting the oil present on the skin, then the body will work hard to reject and overcome the poison. The presence of poison ivy in the lungs can cause breathing problems similar to asthma attacks or general shortness of breath.
With a prolonged poison ivy rash, the body may produce a toxic reaction. When this occurs, the body may produce an over abundance of white blood cells, spike a high fever and produce liver abnormalities that may disrupt normal bodily functions. Always consult a doctor if poison ivy symptoms do not recede in a few days or get worse to avoid a toxic reaction.