Answering the Internet's Most Burning Poison Ivy Questions

Posted on January 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM by Tom Swegle

A child trying to treat a rash on her arm with calamine lotion

"Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac -- the Basics"

When it comes to being prepared for this poison ivy season (it's closer than you think), it is essential to have some knowledge of basic poison ivy facts to keep yourself safe from the painful consequences of coming into contact with poisonous plants. When considering the potential effects of various poison plants, several questions might come to mind. 

"Am I Allergic to Poison Ivy?"

According to WebMD, "Up to 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy, leaving at least 15% resistant to any reaction."

What causes poison ivy?

"One of the main causes of poison ivy rash is obviously coming in contact with the poison ivy plant itself. Whether the leaves, stems, roots, or berries, any contact with this plant will result in painful itching and burning irritation, as well as uncomfortable blisters. Direct contact will almost always result in the poison ivy rash unless taking a supplement to reduce sensitivity.

Another one of the causes of poison ivy rash is the indirect contact method. Every poisonous plant has powerful oils. With poison ivy plants, that oil is potent enough to remain active for years. If your jacket brushed up against poison ivy and oil was left behind, you could develop the poison ivy rash by simply touching the jacket. 

The third, less likely but still possible, cause of poison ivy rash is when the plant is burned, either on purpose to try to kill the plant or by accident from a brush fire. When poison ivy is inhaled it can lead to painful irritation of the nasal passages, throat, and lungs. It is never recommended to burn poison ivy because of the danger it poses to people. Even if the fire is in a somewhat contained area, the smoke can travel for miles and affect anyone who breathes it unknowingly." 

"Can Poison Ivy be Airborne?"

The poison ivy plant itself cannot be airborne, however, there are ways in which the dangers of poison ivy can be in the air. A resin called Urushiol is found on and in poison ivy. Contact with the plant is what causes people to have allergic reactions. Urushiol can be transferred through the air if lawncare causes the leaves or stems of poison ivy to be thrown via lawnmower or weed wacker, or if the plant is burned. The inhalation of smoke caused by burning poison ivy can cause serious harm and even death if left untreated.

"Do I have to worry about Poison Ivy in the Winter?"

According to, the need to seek treatment for poison ivy in the winter is not only possible, but happens more often than you might think.

"What happens is that people buy a live Christmas tree, and there are dead vines on it that they rip off, not knowing what they are," Adams says. "The urushiol oil inside is still viable." - Dr. David Adams, Dermatologist, Penn State Hershey

The oil that causes poison ivy reactions often remains on inanimate objects long after the vines and leaves are gone. To avoid accidental contact with such items, it is a good practice to clean your garden tools and launder any gardening clothing items (gloves, apron, etc.) after working in the garden or cleaning up yard debris, rather than simply hanging them in a shed.

"How Can Protect Myself and Family From Poison Ivy?"

There are many ways to stay safe in the outdoors and protect yourself from poison ivy. Understanding the cause of the rash is a good start. 

Poison Ivy Vines Climbing a treeAs one of the most unpleasant rashes you can contract from the great outdoors, poison ivy requires a vigilant approach to ensure prevention. It is recommended to know the appearance of the plant and take care not to touch it while hiking or gardening. While hiking and gardening are the most common means of contact, this is a plant that can strike anywhere it is allowed to take root. Even with knowing what to look for and taking extra precautions, the causes of poison ivy can still attack almost anyone. When it comes to poison ivy, both the plant and the rash that shares the name, knowing the causes may help you avoid an unwanted encounter. 

Avoiding contact is obviously the best approach, but often those afflicted with poison ivy don't know they have been in contact with the plant until after they begin to feel its effects. Wearing protective clothing including closed-toed shoes, using barrier creams, and being diligent about washing your clothes and the affected area are all great ways to protect oneself and your family. If you believe you've already been exposed, wash your skin, your pet's fur (if exposed), all contaminated objects, and don't forget your footwear. 

Another effective method is the use of a supplement such as Outdoor Joe's Poison Ivy Pro® (formerly Rhus Tox) to help your body reduce sensitivity over time. This oral solution can reduce sensitivity and lessen reaction severity in as little as three doses.

To better understand the plant and the dangers it poses, be sure to check out our Poison Ivy Facts page.

"What are the Best Treatments for Poison Ivy?"

If you develop a rash, the effects of poison ivy typically dissipate after two to three weeks. While some might recommend calamine lotion for itch relief, "do not apply an antihistamine cream or lotion to your skin, this may actually worsen the rash," according to

Often the best treatment approach involves short, lukewarm baths or cool showers, cool compresses, and use of antihistamine tablets to help reduce itching. If 

"How do I Know if I Should See a Doctor After Poison Ivy Exposure?"

While poison ivy affects each person differently, there are certain warning signs you should never ignore. When it comes to poison ivy treatment, it is better to be overly cautious than suffering in silence. In some cases, a poison ivy reaction can lead to death if a severe reaction goes untreated. If any of these symptoms are present, it is suggested to seek medical attention:

  • Difficulty Breathing (especially if you may have inhaled smoke)
  • Rash Site (If the rash affects the mouth or eyes, it requires medical treatment)
  • Widespread Area (If the rash covers more than one area of the body)
  • Fever (a fever combined with a rash should never be ignored)
  • Excessive Swelling 
  • Long Duration (more than 2 weeks)

Outdoor Joe's®: A Homeopathic Solution

Most people achieve reduced sensitivity while in others the severity of a reaction is reduced. Highly recommended by physicians, nurses, and pharmacists in preventing the effects of poison ivy, Outdoor Joe's Poison Ivy Pro® offers protection that’s powerful while being an easy addition to your supplement regimen. With a simple, once a week dosage for three consecutive weeks in the winter followed by a once-monthly dosage during summer months, Outdoor Joe's®  is easy to administer. While it is most beneficial to begin dosage during the winter months due to the dormant phase of poison ivy at that time of year, it can be administered for the first time at any time of year.

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