What is Poison Ivy & What Makes it Dangerous?

What is Poison Ivy and What Makes it Dangerous?

Poison Ivy is known to cause severe inflammation of the skin which is medically referred to as contact dermatitis. The leaf of the plant when it comes in contact with the skin is responsible for causing instant irritation and inflammation. This plant is found in abundance in North America. To grow it requires lot of sunlight which it gets in the woodlands of North America.

Poison Ivy is basically a shrub meaning that it does not grow into a tall plant. Studies state that more than 80% of the population in the United States is allergic to Poison Ivy. Even if an individual is not allergic to this plant repeated exposure may ultimately cause a reaction.

What makes Poison Ivy dangerous is the sap of the plant. It contains oil like substance called urushiol. When this sticky oil like substance touches the skin it results in inflammation, irritation and formation of rashes at the point of contact.

In some cases there may not be direct contact with Poison Ivy plant but urushiol may stick to the shoes or clothing of an individual out in the woods and when these contaminated objects are touched an allergic reaction is triggered.

What is Poison Ivy and What Makes it Dangerous?

How Does Poison Ivy Rash Look Like?

An individual exposed to Poison Ivy will experience redness and itching at the point of contact. There will also be swelling noted. Red blisters will be formed at the point of contact with the plant. In case if an individual inhaled smoke coming out of a burning Poison Ivy plant then there may be shortness of breath experienced with the fumes.

The rash is like a straight line in character at the point where the urushiol comes in contact with the skin. In case if the individual comes with a contaminated object then the rash is far more spread out. The urushiol can also spread to other parts of the body through fingers.

The characteristic rash from Poison Ivy develops within a couple of days after exposure to the plant and lasts for a minimum of three weeks. The rash is more severe depending on the amount of urushiol that comes in contact with the skin.

An individual with a Poison Ivy Rash should consult with a doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if the rash is severe and spread all over the body or if the individual has inhaled Poison ivy fumes and is having problems with breathing. Immediate care should also be given if there is worsening of swelling around the area of the reaction, the eyes or the mouth get affected, and if there is fluid or pus coming out of the rash.

If the individual develops fever greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit and there are no signs of improvement even after three weeks of development of the rash then that also calls for an immediate evaluation by a dermatologist for treatment.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 19, 2019

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