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.

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