Update: I’ve noticed that a lot of the searches that are leading people to this post are questions about poison ivy, the rash, etc. If you would like to post a question, please do. I have had quite a bit of personal experience with poison ivy rashes & will do my best to answer any questions that I can.
Poison Ivy… one of my least favorite things in the world. I absolutely hate this stuff! Unfortunately, it grows all over the place around here. 😦
For those of you who don’t know, this is what it looks like…
I grew up in the country and spent lots of time in the woods with my brothers; and I have had many a rash thanks to this annoying plant. (Gosh! Even writing about it and looking at these pictures is making me start to itch!) My experiences have ranged from a very small rash — maybe a couple inches long — to one that covered both of my legs from the knee down and one that covered my neck and face, making my face swell pretty bad. Trust me, it ain’t pretty and it ain’t fun.
After a couple of particularly bad breakouts, I decided to be more careful. I now do my best to not wear shorts, sandals, or flip-flops into the woods and always wash with cold water and soap at the first opportunity after possible exposure to poison ivy. I’m also careful to wash my clothes as soon as possible. Since then, I’ve only had a few (usually relatively small) breakouts. When I do get a poison ivy rash, though, I have found that hot water does help to relieve the itch and alcohol helps make the rash go away faster.
SOME FACTS ABOUT POISON IVY
(Click HERE to see where I got this information and to read the whole list)
How do you get poison ivy?
From touching it, or touching something that has touched it, like your clothes or your dog. You normally get it from touching the leaves, but yanking the vine out by the roots – even in winter – will give you a wicked rash.
Using a weed eater to remove poison ivy will result in spraying your legs with poison ivy. If you are bare-legged and get scratches while splattered with sap from poison ivy, you may be headed to the emergency room.
And there are more unusual ways to get it, like breathing smoke from firewood burning with poison ivy on it. Which can also put people into the hospital.
What about immunity?
Some people appear to be immune, others become immune. HOWEVER, you can gain or lose immunity, so to assume you can’t get it if you never have before is foolish. People change as they age. I would never assume that I was immune at any time no matter what my past experience was.
(Personal Note from Aerykah: This is absolutely true. I’ve seen it happen with several of my brothers — both “gaining” and “losing” immunity.)
What it is like to get it?
At first you get a slight itchy spot, which gets worse and worse. It can be a a small itchy area that will annoy you, or it can cover your whole body with giant red sores that will drive you nuts. See the rash slide show to see the rash in real life.
The poison ivy rash, even when not huge and ugly, can be one of the itchiest experiences a person will ever have.
What if you know you’ve been exposed to it?
Within a hour or so you should rinse with lots of cold water – like a garden hose. Hot water will open your pores and let the oil in. Taking a shower right away could be a disaster. (Later, after the oil is all absorbed or washed off, and you HAVE a rash, hot showers can ease the itch for a few hours.)
For up to about 6 hours, washing with alcohol may still help remove the oil, but many say that after 1/2 hour the oil has soaked in and you can’t remove it.
The next day is really too late.
Is it contagious?
Once you have the rash the oil has been absorbed and you probably can’t spread it to others or elsewhere on yourself. If you get big blisters filled with liquid it is mostly water and will not spread the rash even if they break. (Although I have viewers who SWEAR that the fluid does cause further outbreaks.)
(Personal Note from Aerykah: I would be one of the ones that swear that it is contagious. Maybe it was just coincidence. However, on several occasions I have gotten a rash days after one of my brothers got one. Maybe I came into contact with the oil some other way… I don’t know. I’m just sharing my experience.)