Everything You Need to Know About Poison Ivy

What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy is a plant that grows naturally in many parts of the world. It’s name comes from its poisonous sap, which contains compounds called alkaloids. These alkaloids are toxic when ingested or inhaled. They cause severe skin irritation and breathing problems, as well as damage to internal organs such as the heart and lungs. When ingested they may cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, respiratory failure and death.

How Does Poison Ivy Affect People?

The most common effects of poisoning with poison ivy are skin irritation, nausea and vomiting. Other possible symptoms include: dizziness, confusion, seizures, coma and even death. Poison ivy can affect any part of the body but is most commonly found on the trunk and limbs. It can also appear anywhere on the body including the face, hands, feet and genitals.

What Are Some Signs That Someone May Have Been Exposed To Poison Ivy?

Symptoms of exposure to poison ivy may not occur immediately after contact. Symptoms may take up to two weeks before they become apparent. However, it is best to seek medical attention immediately if you think you have come into contact with poison ivy.

Poison ivy rash typically starts as red bumps that turn into blisters and then scabs. This can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly appears on the hands and feet.

Blisters may also appear in the throat causing a sore throat or hoarse voice. If inhaled, symptoms include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing and chest pain.

What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Poison Ivy

Long-term effects of poison ivy involve the skin. The rash that is left behind after the blisters have dried out can result in long-term discoloration and sensitivity to sunlight, sometimes permanently.

This condition is called poisony angiomas. It causes a brownish discoloration on the skin that looks like a bruise. The affected area is also extremely sensitive to sunlight and may become swollen, itchy and painful.

How Is Poison Ivy Treated?

Diagnosing poison ivy involves keeping an eye on the symptoms. If you think you have come into contact with poison ivy you should wash the area immediately with soap and water, especially if there are any visible blisters or rashes. The most important thing is to keep the infected area away from more contact. If the rash becomes extremely itchy you can take an over-the-counter antihistamine or apply an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream to reduce the swelling and itching. Over-the-counter topical antibiotics are also available to help prevent secondary infection.

In more severe cases of poisoning ivy, a healthcare professional may provide additional treatment such as oxygen therapy if needed and prescription medication to help with pain.

Sources & references used in this article:

Is it, or isn’t it? Poison ivy look-a-likes by TW McGovern, SR LaWarre, C Brunette – American Journal of Contact …, 2000 – Elsevier

Occupational poison ivy and oak dermatitis by WL Epstein – Dermatologic clinics, 1994 – derm.theclinics.com

Lepidoptera reared in Manitoba from poison ivy by N Criddle – The Canadian Entomologist, 1927 – cambridge.org

Poison-ivy/poison-oak/poison-sumac—the virulent weeds by AG Koss – 2006 – Macmillan

Observations on poison ivy hypersensitiveness in guinea pigs. by LW Mitich – Weed technology, 1995 – cambridge.org

‘Poison ivy’: Queer masculinities, sexualities, homophobia and sexual violence by FA Simon – Journal of Immunology, 1936 – cabdirect.org