Poison ivy is a common plant found throughout most of North America. It causes a severe allergic reaction to most who come in contact with it. Approximately 75 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy in some degree. Poison ivy symptoms can vary from, as some people are more allergic to the plant than others. The most common symptom is contact dermatitis, a rash that usually shows up within 48 hours of contact. The rash may vary in severity. In some cases it may just be a red, itchy area of inflamed skin that causes mild discomfort, but other times the rash may break out into large bumps, hives or even blisters that leak.
Poison ivy symptoms are caused by an oil called urushiol that coats the plant. The same oil is found in poison oak and sumac. Urushiol can even rub off of poison ivy and still maintain its poisonous attributes. It is possible to contract poison ivy from a pet, gardening tools or hiking gear that has rubbed up against the plant. Usually only areas of the body that came into direct contact with urushiol will show poison ivy symptoms. It cannot spread to other parts of the body, nor is it contagious. Poison ivy rashes only comes from direct contact with the plant itself or the oil found on it.
Poison ivy symptoms can be persistent and stay prevalent for several weeks. Without any treatment, the rash from poison ivy may last anywhere from ten days to six weeks. Treatment for a mild rash caused by poison ivy include regularly washing the are with water, abstaining from digging and scratching, and applying calamine lotion to the affected area.
More sever poison ivy symptoms may manifest after exposure, and these usually require medical attention. For people who are severely allergic to urushiol, the reaction will spread to parts of the body that didn't come into direct contact with the oil. Severe symptoms of poison ivy can include a fever, dizziness, and even difficulty breathing. Serious symptoms may also include the swelling of the throat and face, including the eyelids and mouth. During a serious reaction to poison ivy, the regular symptoms will also be more pronounced. The rash will be more inflamed and itchy, and the blisters will be widespread, larger and ooze more fluid. Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible in cases of severe reaction.