Poison Ivy Facts and FAQ

Stay Safe This Poison Ivy Season

Image of a Poison Ivy leafWhen it comes to being prepared for this poison ivy season, 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 looking for answers to questions such as how long does poison ivy last or what to look for in terms of leaves, Outdoor Joe's helpful compilation of common questions to help ease the confusion surrounding this problematic worry.

Whether looking for suggestions on treating the ensuing rash, how to safely remove poisonous plants from your yard, how poison ivy rashes can be contagious, or a host of other pressing matters, we have the answers you need to avoid this unfortunate downside to enjoying the great outdoors.



What are symptoms of breathing smoke from burned poison ivy?

Removing any poisonous plant like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac requires proper knowledge of how to handle the plant safely. Some people think the fastest and easiest remedy to removing poison plants is by burning it. This method, while effective at removing the vines and leaves of the plant, is a potentially dangerous option and should be avoided at all costs due to poison ivy smoke. So, what exactly happens if you burn poison ivy? Poison ivy oils can be carried through the air and infect the airways of people in the surrounding areas for miles. Whether an intentional burn or an accidental wildfire has introduced poison ivy into your airway, there are some things you need to know.

Breathing the fumes of burning poison ivy can have serious health consequences and lead to death in severe cases left untreated. If you are planning of or have thought about burning poison ivy, there are symptoms of inhaling burned poison ivy smoke to be aware of.

Difficulty Breathing

This symptom should never be ignored! The burned poison ivy can get in your throat and lungs causing inflamed airways that make breathing painful. While this inflammation can be painful enough to seek medical treatment for poison ivy, the swelling is the real concern. If you are having difficulty breathing, it is because your airways are swelling from the toxins. Seek immediate medical attention if this symptom occurs.


While you may never come in contact with the poison ivy plant itself, a rash can still occur from breathing in the smoke of burning plants. In most cases, the rash will be on the inside of the mouth and the lips but may spread to other areas depending on how much smoke you inhaled and how much of the plant’s oil was carried in the air or ash you came in contact with. Seek immediate medical treatment for poison ivy attention if this symptom occurs. Do not try an at home poison ivy remedy.


A fever is a common symptom of inhaling burned poison ivy plants. Any time your body is under attack, a fever may occur as the body’s reaction to the outside threat. While a fever is a normal aspect of colds, it should never be ignored when associated with a poison ivy rash. It is a sign your immune system is struggling to rid your body of the toxins and requires medical attention if it reaches over 100 degrees.

Any time you have these symptoms and suspect you have breathed in poison ivy, it is advisable to seek medical treatment for poison ivy. When it comes to breathing in harmful toxins, it is always better to be safe than sorry!

How do you get poison ivy?

While many people of all ages love spending time in the great outdoors, there are a few possible dangers to be vigilant of at all times, from wild animals to rash-inducing plants. Poison ivy is one of the worst offenders during active seasons. How do you contract poison ivy? It is easier than you may think. You may think that as long as you stay aware of plants while hiking or gardening, you will be mostly able to prevent an encounter. However, poison ivy can be one of the sneakiest culprits affecting people who do not even remember coming in contact with the plant. In order to limit your exposure to the dangerous plant, it is imperative to know the answer to the question of “how do you contract poison ivy?’

Direct Touch

The most common way to contract poison ivy is by directly touching the plant, whether leaves, stems, roots, or the berries. Even with minimal contact, the power of poison ivy can be strong enough to elicit the painful rash associated with exposure. While you may think you may be on high alert when in areas such as the woods, poison ivy can grow nearly anywhere, including near the sidewalks of popular places. Keep an eye out no matter where you are for this poisonous plant.

Indirect Contact

Even if you did not come into direct contact, it is still possible to develop a painful rash by proxy. The oils emitted from poisonous plants can retain potency even in trace amounts. If you stepped in the oils unknowingly and then touch your shoes, you can develop a rash. If someone else has poison ivy oil on their skin or clothes and you come in contact, you are vulnerable to the effects of having touched the plant yourself.


While it considered unsafe and not a recommended method, some people will attempt to burn poison ivy plants to rid their property of them. Whether from an irresponsible neighbor or a nearby brush fire, inhaling the vapors of burning poison ivy opens you up to developing complications. This type of contraction is especially painful as it will affect the sensitive areas of the nasal passages and lungs.

What causes poison ivy?

As 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. 

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.

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.

When looking to prevent poison ivy rash, a good method is to simply stay away from plants you suspect are poisonous. However, it is easy to make a careless mistake. The best bet is to arm yourself with a powerful reduction in sensitivity builder to prevent outbreaks.

Can I get poison ivy from my pets?

As a pet owner, you do all you can to keep your furry friends safe and happy. While you try to protect them as much as possible, there are concerns you may not be able to prevent. When you take your dog to the woods for a camping trip or let your outside cat happily roam, you may have concerns about how poisonous plants, particularly poison ivy, can affect your pet. Can my pet contract poison ivy? Can animals carry poison ivy and pass it to humans? When it comes to pets and poison ivy, we have the answers you need.

The first thing you need to know is that pets, for the most part, are not likely to contact the poison ivy rash like humans. The reason they have a reduction in sensitivity is to their thick coats of fur which act as a shield between the plant and their skin. However, if an animal is a furless breed, such as sphinx cats, they are more likely to develop the rash. For the most part, your pets are safe from poison ivy. However, short-haired breeds or pets who have had their fur trimmed close to the skin are more susceptible.

Knowing that your pets are safe and healthy is a great feeling, but what about your health? Can animals carry poison ivy? While animals do not develop the rash, they can still act as accidental carriers of poison ivy and spread it to anyone who touches them. The reason for this transference process is because the oils in poison ivy plants, otherwise called urushiol, are incredibly potent can remain active for years. If you come in contact with the oils, you will likely develop the irritation and itching of the painful rash associated with this plant.

In order to avoid indirectly contracting poison ivy from pets, you should bathe them regularly, especially after any unmonitored or extended outdoor excursions. Even with a vigilant approach, it is still recommended to watch where your pets are when they are outdoors with you to limit the likelihood of contact with poison ivy plants.

Are some people immune to poison ivy?

While enjoying the outdoors can be a relaxing experience, the threat of poison ivy lurks in nearly every environment, even in cities. Poison ivy affects more than just hikers and gardeners. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the rash associated with this plant every single year. From the unpleasant itching to the painful blisters, the rash can last from a few days to almost a month with a range of severity depending on the individual. A poison ivy rash is caused by a person with an allergy, most of the human population, coming in contact with the plant leaves, stems, or oils, whether directly or indirectly. When it comes to poison ivy sensitivity, most people are lacking in the defenses needed to be considered immune.

The idea of poison ivy immunity is often misunderstood. While there are people in the world, who can come into contact with poison ivy plants and never develop a rash, the majority of people who touch poison ivy will. The way poison ivy immunity is looked at is often the degree to which an individual is affected by poison ivy, not whether or not they are affected. Anyone who develops the poison ivy rash is considered allergic to poison ivy plants. For example, one person may touch the leaves of a poison ivy plant and break out into blisters almost immediately and suffer for weeks whereas another person could have a few bumps accompanied by mild itching that clears up in a few days.

While people who are allergic may never achieve true poison ivy immunity, there are products, such as Rhus Toxicodendron, which can help lessen the dangers of poison ivy encounters and reduce sensitivity. For some users, they could develop complete immunity using this product while others may still develop the rash after an encounter, but a milder rash than what they would have experienced before reducing sensitivity. The level of immunity achieved is often based on the severity of allergic reactions inherent in the individual, as well as proper dosage and overall health. Aside from reducing sensitivity, precautions should still be taken to avoid poison ivy plants.

Is poison ivy contagious?

Poison ivy is one of the most unpleasant rashes to contract. From the painful irritation and itching to the unpleasant blisters, poison ivy rashes can make even the slightest movement of the affected area feel like a chore. While many people may be aware of what poison ivy rash looks like and how it is contracted from poison ivy plants, there are still some helpful facts to know about this condition. For instance, if a loved one has poison ivy and you do not, what are the precautions you should take to keep yourself safe? Is poison ivy contagious?

When you see the red bumps and blisters caused by the poison ivy rash, it is a common fear that you will develop the rash from contacting the rash on another person. Is poison ivy contagious? No, not in the way you may think. If you come in contact with the rash of someone suffering from poison ivy, you will not be affected by their rash, even if they have blisters that have opened and are releasing liquid. However, you can catch the poison ivy rash from other people and even pets.

While you will not develop a rash from someone else’s rash, humans and animals can act as carriers of poison ivy which can cause the rash to develop even if you had no direct contact with the plant. The reason behind this type of spreading is that poison ivy plants have powerful oils that are clear. These clear oils can live for years without losing their ability to cause a rash. If these oils are still present on the skin of the person with the rash, then you may catch the rash. This spreading of the oils is why many people falsely believe the poison ivy rash is contagious. A rash that has been cleaned thoroughly is not contagious. The same is true for animals carrying poison ivy oils in their fur or any clothing that may have oils on it.

While poison ivy is not contagious, there are some precautions to take, such as never touch the rash of another person because there may be oils, bathe pets after any outdoor excursions, and take Rhus Toxicodendron to build-up reduction in poison ivy sensitivity.

What does poison ivy rash look like?

Poison ivy rashes can sneak up on people. While you may have been careful to knowingly avoid plants with three leaves while on your latest outdoor adventure to the woods or the park, the oils from these plants can be carried on a variety of sources, from clothing to pets. Since many rashes can look similar, telling apart poison ivy induced rashes requires some basic knowledge about what to look for. What does a poison ivy rash look like?

A poison ivy rash often develops on skin that has been exposed to either direct contact with leaves of poison ivy or from direct or indirect contact with the oils emitted from the poison ivy plant. The rash most often occurs in common places, such as arms, legs, and hands, which are easily exposed to the elements. However, if there are oils on the hand, and you touch your face or any other part of the body, the rash will spread to those areas as well. The rash is not contagious so it will not spread on its own. It will only spread if the oil spreads from one place to another.

While some rashes can look similar to poison ivy, there are some telltale signs it is poison ivy and not simply skin irritation. So what does a poison ivy rash look like? The first sign of poison ivy rash is often lines along the skin that suffered exposure to the plant. These red lines are where the leaves came in contact with the skin, so they are often thin. If you did not come in contact with the leaves, but rather the oil, the lines may cover a larger area or may not resemble lines and may look more like red spots. When determining if it poison ivy rash, the other signs are redness of the affected area, small red bumps which will turn into larger blisters filled with a white fluid, excessive itchiness, and in most cases swelling of the inflicted area. While these signs of poison ivy are accompanied by pain and irritation, medical treatment is rarely needed for mild reactions. It can be treated at home with proper cleaning of the area and an over-the-counter topical cream.

What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

While spending time outdoors can be a favorite pastime, there are some dangers to keep in mind. One of the most important dangers to be aware of is poison ivy plants. Most people will have an encounter with poison ivy at some point in life. When it comes to this dangerous plant, you may think you know what to look for and how to avoid contact, but many people develop the rash without realizing they were even near a poison ivy plant. How does this happen? What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

The reason many people develop the poison ivy rash without realizing they have been in contact is because of the oils emitted from the plant. These powerful oils are clear and mostly odorless so they would be nearly impossible to detect on clothing, shoes, or other items that may have brushed up against a plant. It can even be in the coat of your pet leaving them unharmed but potentially hurting you. While you may have been careful to avoid poison ivy, you may come in contact with someone carrying the oils on them. If a person is wearing an unwashed hiking jacket with the oils on it and you touch it, you may develop the painful rash. The oils from poisonous plants can remain active for years meaning it has the potential to cause the rash repeatedly if the surface is not properly cleaned.

Since it is harder than simply staying away from plants with three leaves, the place to focus the attention is on limiting exposure to poison ivy plants, especially the oils. How do I fight an enemy I can’t see? What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

The best way to be safe is to take extra precautions. If your pet has recently been outdoors and has the potential to have come in contact with the plant, promptly bathe them while wearing protective gloves. Always wash clothing immediately after being in areas prone to poison ivy plants such as hiking trails and wooded areas. If you suspect you may have had exposure to the plant, it is recommended to promptly take a shower and thoroughly clean with soap in hopes of preventing the rash. Do not use warm or hot water as this may cause the oils to spread and become more active resulting in a more severe rash. Coldwater will clean the body while the soap removes the oils. It is also a safe bet to apply a topical skin barrier or rubbing alcohol to help prevent the oils from sinking into the skin.

How do I reduce sensitivity a poison ivy rash?

Most people learn at a young age about staying away from plants with three leaves because they might be poisonous. Even with knowledge and prevention hand in hand, poison ivy rashes are still common. With poison ivy continuing to affect hundreds of thousands of people a year, it is still a present threat, especially during the summer when the plant is in full bloom and more people are spending time outdoors. While the best bet to avoiding an outbreak of poison ivy rash is to avoid the plant at all costs, knowing how to reduce the sensitivity will come in handy. When it comes to poison ivy rash treatments, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The most important aspect of successful poison ivy rash treatments is being able to recognize it as soon as possible. Poison ivy rashes often begin as thin red lines caused by the leaves or red spots from the oil. This redness will spread and cause small red bumps, itching, irritation, and eventually painful blisters with white fluid inside. When it comes to poison ivy rash treatments, the first step once you have identified it as poison ivy-related is to thoroughly cleanse that area to remove oils. Do not use warm or hot water as it may cause oils to become more active or spread to other areas. If you treat the rash without properly cleaning the oils away, you are at risk for a multitude of complications, such as the rash spreading to other areas, more severe symptoms, and longer healing time.

When it comes to poison ivy rash treatments, aside from frequent showering or soaking baths, the recommended plan of action is applying an over-the-counter topical cream containing calamine. Calamine is a naturally soothing element which can calm the skin and lessen the irritation caused by poison ivy rash. Other recommendations are to take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, to help with the reaction to the rash. It will also allow for better sleep. Another tried, and true remedy is to soak in warm baths with oatmeal which will help calm the skin while relieving the constant itching.

How long does a poison ivy rash last?

Being outdoors can be a lot of fun. With an array of outdoor activities to enjoy, from gardening and picnicking to hiking and camping, summer is a great time to spend enjoying nature. While summer can be a time of special outings and memories, it is also when poison ivy plants are at their peak bloom. Staying away from poison ivy is about more than just avoiding the plant itself. Due to the clear oils left behind on people, pets, and clothes preventing poison ivy is harder than avoiding plants with three leaves. Even with vigilance and precautions, poison ivy can strike nearly anyone. If you have developed the painful rash associated with this plant, you may have some questions. Am I contagious to the people around me? How long does a poison ivy rash last?

While poison ivy is an unsightly rash with redness and blisters, the good news is that it is not contagious. The only way for you to spread the rash to those you come in contact with is if there are still oils from the plant on your skin. When dealing with poison ivy rashes, it is advised to wash the rash with cold water daily and apply an over-the-counter topical to the skin to relieve itching and act as a barrier. As long as you have washed your skin thoroughly, you should not be a threat to others. The most important thing to help prevent poison ivy rashes from becoming more severe or causing them to last longer is to cleanse the affected area thoroughly. The powerful oils can remain active for years, so it is crucial to make sure you have removed it from your skin.

If you have the unfortunate experience of developing the rash, you just want the painful irritation to be over. How long does a poison ivy rash last? In most cases, poison ivy rashes is a mild reaction that will last anywhere from 5 days to 12 days, depending on the individual and the amount of toxin they were exposed to prior to washing their skin. Poison ivy allergies of a more severe nature can lead some individuals to suffer through the rash for an entire 30-day period or longer.

How long does the oil from poison ivy last?

Nature can be a beautiful place to unwind and relax, whether hiking through your favorite trail, tending to your garden, or having a picnic in the park. However, there are dangers lurking in the majesty of nature. Poison ivy plants can cause painful rashes resulting in irritated skin, red bumps, itchiness, and blisters. While many people think they know enough about poison ivy plants to keep themselves safe, there are a few questions most do not think to ask. Can poison ivy be spread from person to person? If it is contagious, how do I prevent it? Is it true the oils are the most dangerous part? How long does the oil from poison ivy last?

When it comes to poison ivy, many people underestimate the effect of the oils emitted from these plants. While most people falsely believe the only way to catch the rash caused by poison ivy is to come into direct contact with the plant, the truth is actually much scarier. You do not need to come in contact directly with the plant to develop the painful effects. In some ways, the oils are seen as worse than the plant that produces them.

The reason the oils of poison ivy are seen as the worst part is that they allow people to become inflicted by the plant without direct contact. These oils are clear and mostly odorless so they can go undetected. Whether on a person’s clothes or in the fur of a pet, these oils can cause the rash to affect people with no contact with the plant itself. Even worse, poison ivy oil is the strongest part of the plant in terms of potency. Oils from poisonous plants can live for years on certain surfaces! For example, if you touch a tent that came in contact with poison ivy oils years before, you may develop the rash without ever being anywhere near the plant.

The way in which people who have no contact with the plant can develop the rash has led to people erroneously thinking that poison ivy rashes are contagious. The good news is these rashes are not spreadable. However, if the person with the rash still has oils on their skin, it is possible to develop the rash yourself from touching these oils.

What does a poison ivy plant look like?

When it comes to staying safe from the painful effects of poisonous plants, you need to know the appearance of them. While there are three main poisonous plants to worry about, poison ivy, oak, and sumac, they display some very basic warning signs to tell you to keep away. Poison ivy is the most common of the three plants. It is so widespread that it grows in all of North America, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii, and Newfoundland in Canada.

What does poison ivy look like? Poison ivy is easily recognized by the three leaves rule. A generally accepted rule is that if a plant has three leaves, it is poisonous. However, the shape of the leaves combined with the number of leaves is the true indicator of potential danger. There are many plants with three leaves that are nonpoisonous, and poison ivy can actually have more than the typical leaves of three. This is why it is important to pay attention to the shape of the leaves. With poison ivy, the leaves will be shaped in broad, oval shapes some call spoons. The edges will have an almost jagged appearance as opposed to a smooth one. The color of the leaves can be green or red when the plant is young. In fact, poison ivy leaves can change with the seasons just like nonpoisonous plants and trees.

When identifying potential poison ivy, it is essential to know not just the look of the leaves, but also the forms the plant can take. Poison ivy can grow on the ground like a vine, up walls and trees as a vine, and as a ground shrub. When dealing with poison ivy in any of these forms, remember to look at not just the number of leaves, but also the shape. What if you are dealing with a potentially dangerous poison ivy plant with no visible leaves to alert you to the danger? Many times poison ivy will not have any leaves during the off-seasons when it is not in full bloom. It is still a danger, even without leaves, and being able to identify the vines of poison ivy can help in removal efforts. Be on the lookout for vines with small clusters of white berries or white flowers. In the spring, most vines take on this appearance when preparing to sprout leaves. Even without the presence of leaves, care should be taken to avoid the poison ivy vine.

Where does poison ivy grow?

As the most widespread poisonous plants in existence, poison ivy is nearly everywhere. Poison ivy plants can lead to painful, blistering rashes lasting for weeks in some cases. While most people think they can avoid an outbreak by simply staying away from nature, poison ivy prevention is more complicated than avoiding certain areas.

Where Does Poison Ivy Grow?

Poison ivy grows in every state in America with the exception of California, Alaska, and Hawaii. It also grows in every territory in Canada with the exception of Newfoundland. Chances are you live in a state or territory where this dangerous plant is quite common. Poison ivy is a robust plant, and it grows well in a variety of climates. In the winter, the leaves disappear leaving a brown vine behind. In the spring, the vine turns green, and white berries or flowers begin to appear. In summer, the plant is in full bloom with the leaves at their highest levels of potency. In the fall, the leaves change colors just like non-poisonous trees and plants. Poison ivy is a threat nearly all year long, whether you live in a state with a mild climate or extreme climate.

While many think poison ivy is confined to remote areas in the woods, poison ivy can grow in a variety of settings. Poison ivy can grow in the woods which is why many campers and hikers are prone to poison ivy reactions. While poison ivy can be found in the woods, it is more commonly found in what is called disturbed land. Disturbed land is any land that has been touched or manipulated by humans, such as backyards and gardens. City dwellers are not safe from this plant. Poison ivy can even grow in city settings on pathways and along sidewalks, as well as in parks mixed among the landscaping.

Aside from the many places, it can grow, poison ivy can take on different forms. It can grow as a shrub in your front yard. It can grow as a vine running up the building walls of your office or the fence in our backyard. It can even sprout up in between sidewalks in a bustling downtown area.

How do you get rid of poison ivy plants?

If you have identified poison ivy in your area, you may be wondering about poison ivy removal. Poison ivy can lead to a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters and irritating itchiness. If you find this poisonous plant in your yard, garden, or any area near your home, you will want to get rid of it. While many erroneously think that poison ivy is only a threat when it is in season, it can actually be dangerous all year long. When it comes to poison ivy removal, there are a few things to keep in mind.

When Removing Poison Ivy

  • The first step is to decide if you feel comfortable removing the plant on your own. If you do not feel confident in your abilities and want to trust this task to a professional, there are many poison ivy removal services available to do the job for you.
  • If you decide to do the job yourself, it is important to wear the right type of clothing when dealing with poison ivy. Since the danger of the plant is in the oils found in the leaves, wearing gloves is not enough. Make sure you wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to avoid any exposure.
  • Never burn poison ivy plants or vines. Burning poison ivy can lead to the toxins being released into the air leading to lung damage. It can also cause poison ivy toxins to affect a widespread area of people surrounding the area where it was burned.
  • It may be a safer bet to remove poison ivy during the winter when it is less active. This approach works well for smaller areas where the vines are easy to locate and remove. The vine will also be mostly dried up with few toxins associated with it. However, poison ivy can safely be removed at any stage of development.
  • There are many herbicides available on the market aimed at poison ivy removal. While these can have varying levels of success, the best bet is still total removal.
  • For total removal of poison ivy plants, you want to make sure you cut down and remove all leaves and active vines first. Secure these in a garbage bag.
  • Remove the roots. You will need to dig into the soil and properly remove the root of poison ivy plants to keep them from growing back again.
  • Dispose of all roots, vines, and any clothing or gloves worn to handle poison ivy during removal. Washing clothes may not be enough to properly remove the oils you may have come in contact with during removal.

While the plant itself can be a hassle with negative consequences, poison ivy removal is relatively easy and safe. As long as you follow basic safety precautions, you can ensure a safe outdoors free from the threat of poison ivy’s painful rash.

Does poison ivy have flowers?

While most people know to look for the leaves of three rule, there are other identifying marks to be aware of. When it comes to avoiding a poison ivy reaction, the key rests in being able to correctly identify the plant itself. Most people falsely assume that plants with flowers are typically not poisonous. In some cases, this is true. What about poison ivy? Do poisonous plants like poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy have flowers?

Poison ivy is often thought of as a green bushy plant or vine. What people fail to realize is that poison ivy changes throughout the seasons just like any other plant. Poison ivy has flowers from spring to summer when the plant is blooming and recovering from the winter. This is also the time when the plant is most potent posing a threat to any person who comes into contact with it. From around April until July, poison ivy plants will sprout smallish clusters of flowers on the vine itself, as well as among the leaf groups. These flowers are up to 3 inches long and either a yellowish-white or greenish-white color. After this stage of gestation, the plant will turn these flowers into small fruits of a whitish-gray color that resemble berries. While the berries are often eaten by birds and animals without harm, these berries should never be eaten by humans. The berries can be just as dangerous to humans as the leaves and vine because of the oils.

The flowers are not what causes the poison ivy rash. It is caused by the oils secreted by the plant. While the flowers are not the main culprit of poison ivy, they can have the oils on them and spread it to humans. Since the flowers can become dislodged and scattered by the wind, you should avoid areas with the plant during the flowering stage. It is also important to educate younger members of the family about the dangers of this plant. Children are often drawn to flowers and will inevitably reach for them. Avoid a painful reaction for your children by educating them early with a powerful poison ivy plant remedy, Outdoor Joe's!

What are symptoms of poison ivy?

Spring and summer are the best time to spend enjoying the great outdoors. Whether going on a camping adventure with friends or having a backyard BBQ with the family, spending time in nature is a favorite pastime of America. However, underneath the fun and relaxation lurks an enemy waiting to strike. Poison ivy runs rampant in nearly every state and territory in North America and is in full bloom during these warmer months. Many times poison ivy grows in backyards unnoticed or confused with a nonpoisonous plant. If you come into contact with poison ivy, you will most likely develop a rash. In fact, 9 out of 10 people have a reaction of varying degrees from mild to severe. What are the symptoms of poison ivy?

Poison ivy symptoms range from a mildly uncomfortable experience to a deadly nightmare depending on the intensity of your allergy and amount of exposure to the plant.
The common symptoms of poison ivy include:

  • Redness

Redness is often first seen as streaks or splotches where the oil came into contact with the skin.  The skin will remain red as the skin becomes irritated and inflamed from the rash.

  • Itching

One of the most irritating aspects of poison ivy rash is the constant itching. Scratching the infected area will only make the skin more inflamed.

  • Swelling

The infection site may experience swelling depending on the severity of the allergic reaction.

  • Blisters

These are usually fluid-filled and incredibly painful. While it may be tempting to pop them in an attempt to relieve the pain, it is not recommended. Doing so can actually make your reaction worse and open you up to new infections.

  • Difficulty Breathing

If poison ivy plants burn, either from a brush fire or a person incorrectly removing it from their property, you can breathe these toxins in and have a severe reaction. Airways will swell making it hard to breathe. This can be a serious concern and should be treated by a medical professional immediately.

In general, poison ivy can be treated effectively at home using over-the-counter remedies. If you have a severe allergy to the plant, you may need to seek prompt medical attention. If you have trouble breathing, a rash affecting the facial region, a fever develops, or if the reaction is widespread affecting more than one area of the body, you should seek medical attention.

When do I see a doctor after poison ivy exposure?

Poison ivy is in nearly every state and territory in North America. While it is a threat throughout the entire year, it is most dangerous during the spring and summer months. Most people who contract poison ivy rashes treat them at home. However, if your reaction is more severe, you may need to seek medical care. When should you 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 suffer 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

If you have inhaled poison ivy fumes from the plant being burned, it may have a severe impact. The plant, when burned, still releases toxins, and you can unknowingly introduce them into your airway. The airway will swell and make breathing difficult. This symptom should never be ignored as it can lead to death if the reaction is severe enough.

Rash Site

Where the rash is located makes a difference. If the rash is on an arm or leg, it is usually treatable at home. 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, it should be treated professionally. A widespread poison ivy rash covering a large area of the body can lead to complications and extreme discomfort.


If you have a poison ivy rash, even a relatively small rash, a fever combined with a rash should never be ignored. If a fever reaches over 100 degrees, you should seek medical treatment.

Excessive Swelling

If the affected area continues to swell, even with at home treatments, you should see your doctor.

Long Duration

A poison ivy rash can take several weeks to go away, depending on the severity. If symptoms continue past a few weeks, you should consult your doctor.

What region does poison ivy grow in?

While most people think of poison ivy as a plant that only grows in the woods, it is actually one of the most common plants and can grow nearly anywhere, including backyards and near sidewalks. It is a versatile plant and thrives in many different forms such as a climbing vine, shrub, and ground covering. Aside from knowing what to look for to identify the plant, it is a good idea to know if you are at risk for poison ivy growing in your area. What region does poison ivy grow in?

Poison ivy thrives in a range of locations. It grows in every American state, except for California, Alaska, and Hawaii. In Canada, it grows in most lower territories. It also grows in parts of Mexico. The reason poison ivy is so widespread is because it is a hearty plant.

While many would falsely assume poison ivy is more prominent in regions with year-round warm weather, it is actually a widespread plant regardless of climate. Poison ivy is an adaptable plant meaning it can survive harsh seasons without dying. While poison ivy is thought of as a spring and summer plant, it is still around in the fall and winter. In the fall the leaves change colors like any other plant to a red, orange, or dark brown hues. As winter approaches, the leaves will fall off, and the green vine may turn brown. While the threat during the seasons of fall and winter is weaker when compared with spring and summer, the oils may still be present so avoid plants year-round to avoid a reaction. The plant’s ability to adapt means it can grow in regions with harsh climate changes, as well as states with milder changes throughout the year.

Poison ivy is not confined to state parks and other wooded areas. Poison ivy can grow in many settings, including backyards, up office building walls, and in between sidewalk cracks. Remember poison ivy is adaptable! Where the elements of successful growth are available, such as sunlight and rain, poison ivy can thrive. Always check your backyard regularly for poison ivy indicators to avoid the painful rash associated with the plant.

What does poison oak look like?

With poisonous plants being a widespread concern throughout much of North America, many people are looking to educate themselves on what to look for when examining plants. While most people are aware of the old adage of “leaves of three, leave it be” as a way of identifying poison ivy, there are other types of poisonous plants to be aware to keep yourself safe from developing a painful rash. While poison ivy is the most obvious culprit, poison oak is still a problem. Many people with a poison ivy rash may have come in contact with oak instead.  When it comes to poison oak identification, there are a few key distinguishers to know. 


Poison oak has the same three-leaf pattern as poison ivy but with a slight variation. The leaves are often shaped in a scalloped or wavy appearance and look quite similar to nonpoisonous oak leaves. While the shape is important, the color and texture also matter. The top of the leaves is usually glossy in appearance and range from green, yellow, red, or brown, depending on the season. Since these colors are similar to the color nonpoisonous plants display during the change of seasons, the telltale sign of the leaves is the glossy top and fuzzy underside.  Leaves that are nonpoisonous do not usually have a fuzzy underside. 

Vines and Stems

The vines and stems can be another key in correct poison oak identification. The vine will usually be more of a grayish color than poison ivy’s greenish color. The vine and stems will also be covered in thin hairs all over. Stems and vines do change colors with the seasons so you should consider what season you are in when examining a potential poison oak plant. During the spring and summer, it will be a grayish color. In the fall and winter, it will most likely turn brown. Poison oak will also have thorns, unlike poison ivy, depending on the species. 


While poison ivy typically has white flowers, poison oak has yellowish-green flowers that bloom in the spring when the plant is most potent. These flowers will eventually turn into a berry-like fruit. Poison oak produces small green berries compared to ivy’s whitish berries. 

What does poison sumac look like?

While most people are concerned about poison ivy, they often forget the other members of that dangerous botanical family. Poison sumac is a sister plant to poison ivy and can produce the same painful type of rash. Many people know what to look for with poison ivy plants. What about poison sumac identification? The plants may seem similar to the untrained individual, but there are several differences between the two. When it comes to poison sumac identification, we have some suggestions on what to watch for to avoid an unpleasant encounter.

Poison Sumac can grow taller than poison ivy. While poison ivy is usually a vine or small shrub, poison sumac can be either a shrub or a tree.  It can reach up to 20 feet tall with long branches sweeping downward in tree form. As a shrub, poison sumac can be identified by the leaves and vines. The leaves will be growing in an upward direction instead of a downward like poison ivy. The leaf pattern is different than the usual rule of three associated with poisonous plants.  The leaves of poison sumac are grouped together with multiple rows of two leaves equaling anywhere from 6 to 12 leaves with one large leaf occupying the head of the branch. Leaves differ from poison oak and ivy in that they are spoon-shaped with smooth edges. The stems of a poison sumac shrub will display a reddish brown color and may have small yellow or white flowers. The flowers will eventually turn into inedible white or gray berries. It is important to note that leaves, flowers, and berries that have fallen from the plant are still poisonous and should be avoided.

While poison ivy is more common, poison sumac can be harder to identify in its tree form. You should identify the leaves, flowers, and berries, but that is not always enough. An easy way to determine if a tree is indeed poison sumac, aside from studying the leaves, is the trunk of the tree. The bark will display a rough gray color with a little bit of greenish tinge.

Can scratching spread the rash?

Poison ivy rashes are unpleasant. They have symptoms that are both painful and irritating. One of the most irritating symptoms of a poison ivy rash is the constant itch. While scratching may provide temporary relief, it can leave skin more irritated and inflamed, as well as opening the skin up to developing other infections. If you have contracted a poison ivy rash, you are probably concerned about the impacts of the constant itching. Does scratching spread poison ivy? Can I spread it to other people?

Does Scratching Spread Poison Ivy?

One of the first symptoms of a poison ivy rash is the itchiness. You start scratching an area, and it seems like the affected area is spreading. While you may assume this is because your fingernails must be spreading the oil around, it is often because the affected area was already infected with the oils and your body is gradually becoming aware of the toxin. While scratching does necessarily spread poison ivy to other parts of the body or make the affected area bigger, there may be residual oils from the plant still present on the skin. If you come in contact with poison ivy, you should promptly wash the affected area with soap and warm water even if symptoms have already started to help prevent the oils spreading to other parts of the body. 

Can I Spread Poison Ivy to Others?

The simple answer is no. Your rash cannot be spread to others even when it is red, itchy, and has blisters. Poison ivy rashes are not contagious. However, if you have oils still on your skin or clothing and another person comes in contact with the oils you can spread the rash that way. The oil can remain potent for years which is why clothing should be washed after any suspected encounter with poison ivy. It is best to avoid contact with another person’s poison ivy rash initially because oils may still be present, but once the area has been thoroughly washed, there is no threat of spreading the rash to others. 

Can I get poison ivy multiple times?

Poison ivy rashes are painful and irritating. If you come in contact with the oils secreted by this widespread plant, either directly or indirectly, you will likely end up with redness, itching, blisters, and swelling. All reactions to poison ivy are caused by varying degrees of allergy to the plant. While you may have never experienced a poison ivy rash, you are certainly at risk of one day experiencing it firsthand. There are several factors contributing to the occurrences of poison ivy. 


Poison ivy is one of the most widespread plants throughout North America. It grows and thrives in all U.S states, except California, Alaska, and Hawaii, as well as in all of lower Canada and parts of Mexico. The plant can be found in a variety of forms in each location, such as climbing vines, small shrubs, and ground coverings. While some people assume poison ivy is only an issue in the woods or other places of nature untouched by man, poison ivy is a common nuisance in backyards, walkways, gardens, and any place where the plant can receive enough sunlight and rain to prosper. 


The other main factor affecting the occurrences of poison ivy is allergies. While some people are immune to the effects of the plant, some people will have a reaction ranging from mild to severe. Up to 85% of people have a poison ivy allergy to some degree.  While only 15-25% of people have reactions severe enough to send them to the hospital, many people will suffer the painful consequences of poison ivy rash at home. 

Risk Factors

Aside from the location and severity of individual allergies, some people are more at risk for poison ivy rashes. Young children, who often lack the foresight to watch out for dangerous plants, are more likely to contract a poison ivy rash than adults. Other common at-risk groups are hikers and gardeners. Even with proper training on how to avoid poison ivy, accidental brush ups can happen while going for a hike or tending to the garden without gloves. 

Once I get poison ivy, does my allergy change?

Many people may be surprised to learn that poison ivy rashes are not actually caused by the plant. They are caused by an individual’s allergy to the plant. Not everyone will develop the painful, blistering rash associated with the poison ivy plant after contact. While these people are lucky, they are also a minority. It is estimated that up to 85% of people have some level of allergic reaction to poison ivy. If you are one of the many routinely affected by this poisonous culprit, you may have some questions.

Do Poison Ivy Allergies Change?

The truth about poison ivy allergies is complicated. The allergy is not one you are born with like other allergies. It is acquired after the initial encounter with poison ivy. The initial encounter will not result in a rash for most people so they will falsely assume they are immune to poison ivy or have no allergy. The second encounter will determine if there is truly an absence of allergy to the plant for most people. For some individuals, the second encounter may not even be the one to trigger a rash. It may take several encounters for the first rash to occur.  In fact, people who are considered immune can actually develop an allergy to poison ivy by repeated exposure. Poison ivy allergies are always changing.

How Do I Protect Myself?

If you are one of the many affected by poison ivy allergies, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from future rashes. The most important element is education. You should be aware of identifying factors to be aware of for poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Being able to easily identify the leaves, stems, and vines of these plants will help you avoid them. Another great idea is to wear long pants, long sleeves, and gloves when in the areas where poison ivy is known to inhabit such as gardens and woods. Another effective method is the use of a supplement such as Rhus Toxicodendron to help your body reduce sensitivity over time. This oral solution can lessen reaction severity in as little as three doses.

Does Outdoor Joe's work on Poison Oak or Sumac?

Yes! The oleaginous resin (urushiol) that causes allergic reactions is produced by all three plants- poison ivy, oak, and sumac- is the same so Outdoor Joe's has been proven to effectively fight the effects of all three.

To see what our customers have to say about how Outdoor Joe's has helped, take a look at our testimonials.