Poison ivy is a shrub which is mostly found on mountainous regions. This article explores about the probability of the shrub being contagious.
Poison ivy belongs to the Rhus family of plants. Other plants which belong to this category are poison oak and poison sumac. These shrubs are mostly found in mountain regions, especially, east of Rocky Mountains. The plant contains urushiol oil, which causes development of rashes when it comes in contact with the skin. It is known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. In most cases, itchy rashes develop on the skin which later turn into fluid-filled blisters.
Is the Poison Ivy Rash Contagious?
No, it is not contagious. Very often, people do not realize they have touched the shrub, and end up spreading the urushiol oil to other parts of the body. The rash does not appear until a couple of days after the physical contact, and makes it look like it is spreading due to the fluid from the rash blisters. However, this happens only due to a previous contact with something that had urushiol oil on it. It can take 8 to 48 hours for the rash to appear after you have come in contact with the plant. Another reason for the rash to spread is coming in contact with contaminated clothes which have not been washed.
It must be noted that one cannot get a rash due to standing too close to the plant. A person can develop an allergic reaction, only when he/she comes in contact with the urushiol oil (either by touching infected pets or contaminated objects). Although it is believed that it is only the leaves of the plant that can cause the infection, the stem and roots are equally responsible; since they too, contain the urushiol oil. Hence, you are not safe from the ivy even in the winters (as usually claimed).
There are some people who are allergic to the smoke emitted from the plant when it is burnt. Burning of poison ivy can also cause serious reactions, therefore, it is advisable not to burn the plant.
Some individuals do not develop rashes even after they have been exposed to urushiol oil. However, this does not mean that they are not allergic to the plant. Some do not develop rashes until they have come in contact with the plant several times. According to American Academy of Dermatology, about 85% Americans are allergic to poison ivy. Therefore, it is important that you maintain a safe distance from this plant.
It takes a few weeks for the rash to get cured. The use of calamine can help against the itch caused by the rash. One can even try various home remedies for the rashes. Simple oral medication and prescription creams can also help.
The best way to prevent the allergy is knowing what the plant looks like, and avoiding going anywhere near it. Wearing fully covered clothing while going for an outing is a good way of avoiding contact with the plant. Once back, wash the clothing, and other objects thoroughly. Lesser the contact, milder the chances of developing the rash.