Poison Ivy Facts and Fiction

Millions of people get rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants each year. And that has created millions of people with questions about poison ivy and many people who believe that they are 'poison ivy experts' and think that they know everything about poison ivy. Unfortunately, many of these experts spread more myths than facts about poison ivy, including that poison ivy is contagious (it isn't) and that you can get poison ivy even if you don't touch it.

Poison Ivy Fact

Poison ivy is a member of the Rhus or Toxicodendron genus of plants, which also includes poison oak and poison sumac. Poison ivy is usually found growing as a vine or shrub east of the Rocky Mountains along trails, ponds, and lakes.
Poison sumac grows in boggy areas in the southern United States, while poison oak grows as a bush or climbing vine in the western United States, west of the Rocky Mountains.
Each plant can also grow in other forms in other parts of the country.

Poison Ivy Myth/Fact

Are some people so sensitive to poison ivy that they can get a rash even if they are standing near a poison ivy plant? This is mostly a myth. You do have to touch a plant or come into contact with the urushiol oil in another way, such as if the oil is someone's clothing, fingernails, or a pet, and you touch the contaminated area.
You could also have a reaction to poison ivy if someone is burning a poison ivy plant or leaves and you inhale or have contact with the smoke. In fact, this can cause a serious reaction and is a good reason why you should never burn poison ivy.

Poison Ivy Myth

Is poison ivy contagious? Many people think it is, and it is easy to see why, since the rash you get from poison ivy looks as if it should be contagious. But this is one of the biggest myths that is spread about poison ivy. Poison ivy rashes are not contagious. The fluid from blisters and the rash can not spread the rash.
The reason that the classic poison ivy rash seems to spread is that different areas of a person's body typically have different levels of exposure to the urushiol of poison ivy that causes the rash. The rash can also seem to spread if you are re-exposed or if you are exposed to clothing or other inanimate objects that were contaminated and had contact with the poison ivy plants.

Poison Ivy Fact

Urushiol is the chemical in poison ivy plants that causes the typical allergic reaction and symptoms of poison ivy rashes. Although it can sometimes be washed off within 10 minutes, after that, it is very likely to cause a reaction within 8 to 48 hours. Urushiol is found in the leaves, stems, and roots of poison ivy plants, which means that you can get a rash even in the winter, when a plant has lost all of its leaves.

Poison Ivy Myth/Fact

Are some people are immune to poison ivy? It is true that some people don't have an allergic reaction when they are exposed to poison ivy, but others don't have their first reaction until they are exposed multiple times. So it is very hard to truly know if you are really immune. It may just be that you just haven't had your first reaction yet, so even if you think that you are immune, you should still try to take steps to avoid poison ivy. Keep in mind that most experts believe that 50 to 80% of people will develop a rash after exposure to poison ivy.

Poison Ivy Myth/Fact

Are infants and babies immune to poison ivy? It is true that Pediatricians rarely see poison ivy reactions in younger children, but part of the reason for that is that they are less likely to be exposed than older children who are more likely to play and explore in areas where poison ivy grows. Many experts do also believe that younger children are less susceptible to poison ivy. In fact, the peak age for becoming sensitive to poison ivy is not thought to occur until a child is between the ages of 8 and 14 years old.

Poison Ivy Fact

Being sensitive to poison ivy is genetic. Since having a reaction to poison ivy is thought to run in the family, if a child's parents are sensitive to poison ivy, it might be a good idea to be extra careful to avoid poison ivy in their children starting at a very early age.

Poison Ivy Myth

It is a myth that poison ivy only grows along trails or in the woods. In fact, in some parts of the country, it seems like it grows just about everywhere, even in well maintained gardens and flower beds. If you get an itchy rash after working out in your garden, think poison ivy and be on the look out for it.

Poison Ivy Fact

You can grow out of your sensitivity to poison ivy. Many people do seem to have less severe reactions as they get older, especially if they have less frequent exposures as adults.

 

 

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