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How To Identify and Treat Poison Ivy

Updated on October 4, 2009

What is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy is a woody vine that is found all over North America. Every year people get allergic reactions from coming in contact with this plant. Some people will experience severe rashes that blister and itch, while others will experience little or no reactions to the plant. The allergic reaction is caused by an oil in the plant known as Urushiol. If you have poison ivy, this means you have come in direct contact with the Urushiol. To do this the plant has to have been damaged or broken to release the oil. This can be done as easily as walking on it. Even an insect or animal feeding on the plant can release the oil.

"leaves of three, let it be"
"leaves of three, let it be"


The Leaves

If you notice the image to the right, you can see how the leaves have a shiny dark green apearance. This is one step in identifying the poison ivy plant. They also have 3 leaves. Although you cant really tell from the image, often the leaves will have large irregular teeth on one side only. In the fall, the leaves will turn red or orange in color, and then fall off. At this time you may notice the fruit clusters(seeds).

The Flowers

The flowers of the poison ivy plant are a white color or sometimes even a greenish color and appear in clusters on the plant. Often you will not see them because they are concealed by the leaves.

The Fruit

In the beginning, they fruits will apear green in color. As they ripen they will become a yellowish-white color.The are about the size of a pea and also appear in clusters on the plant. A good time to see these are in the fall when the leaves have fallen from the plant.


The Poison Ivy plant is very hard to get rid of. For one, it is hard to handle without getting an allergic reaction, and two, the entire plant and it roots would have to be completely removed to stop it from spreading. There is however, various things you can try that may help your poison ivy problem.

Commercial Products

Roundup is a chemical herbicide that contains glyphosate, and can be quite effective in killing weeds. To work it must be applied and absorbed into the plant to work. I have worked in a bareroot field nursery for years, and have used this chemical, and it works well on weeds and grasses. You may have to use it a few times to completely knock out the poison ivy.

Manual Removal

It is possible to dig up the plant, very carefully and dispose of it. However, it may come back if you have not removed all of the roots, which is very difficult. One thing you must never ever do is burn any part of the plant.

Home Remedies

For some people, using chemicals is not an option due to beliefs or preferences. One remedy i have heard of is using a mixture of salt, vinegar, and dish soap.


If you have contacted poison ivy, there are plenty of options available, all with varying amounts of success. A lot of it depends on your own body, everyone reacts differently to different things.

The FDA says if you have come in contact with poison ivy, you should follow these steps within ten minutes of coming in contact.

  • clean the areas affected with rubbing alcohol
  • wash first with just water
  • then shower with soap and water
  • make sure any tools, clothing, or shoes have been wiped with alcohol and water.

Commercial Products

There are lots of commercial products that may be effective in treating the rash, like calamine lotion, Benadryl, rubbing alcohol, anti-itch creams, and topical steroids. You will find most treatments only ease the symptoms, and it will take 3 to 4 weeks for the rash to run its course.

Home Remedies

Some common home remedies that people have used:

  • oatmeal bath
  • aloe vera juice from plant
  • bleach applied to affected areas
  • apple cider vinegar applied to affected areas
  • baking soda and water
  • ice-cubes applied for one minute may ease itching


Some Good Footage and Info On The Poison Ivy Plant


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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      My two closest friends are deathly allergic to poison ivy. Great Hub - fantastic photos! Thank you!

    • 02SmithA profile image

      02SmithA 8 years ago from Ohio

      Aloe vera has been the best for me. Nice hub!

    • drummer boy profile image

      drummer boy 9 years ago from Kirksville,MO

      This was a very very good hub. I enjoyed it very much if you can't tell. I like to go mushroom hunting, but I am so allergic to poison ivy that I have to be carefull. I got some really good tips from reading your hub. I give you a thumbs up. Hope you will do the same for me.

      drummer boy

    • Night Writer profile image

      Night Writer 9 years ago from Canada

      Oh the poor girl! I seem to get it every year as well. If i didn't know better, I'd almost think i get it just by looking at it lol, however my husband could probably roll in it and suffer no effects.

    • profile image

      RUTHIE17 9 years ago

      Good information!

      My daughter is deathly allergic to poison ivy--a small dime size rash can spread over a fourth of her body in just a couple of days, with terrible swelling and then splitting of the skin. The last 2 time she's gotten it she's had to have a course of medical treatment to get rid of it. It can be a booger to suffer with!

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