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Poison ivy is a climbing vine that often is found on fence rows and in backyards throughout the central and eastern United States.
A poison ivy rash is caused when a person comes in contact with an oil that is in the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves. The oil is almost colorless at first but later turns a brownish-black color when exposed to air. The oil can stick to garden tools, the fur of animals, and other objects, so direct contact with the plant is not always needed to get the rash.
The rash usually occurs within 12 to 48 hours after contact. It first appears as lines or streaks on the skin. Redness, itching, and swelling will then occur, followed by blisters. The symptoms can be mild or severe depending on the person. The rash does not spread but often looks like it is “spreading” because the oil absorbs more slowly in thicker skin, such as hands, forearms, and legs. It may take two or three weeks to heal.
For more details, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Shane Cross, PharmD, St. Jude Pharmaceutical Services
Adapted from St. Jude Parents Newsletter