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Contagious or Not: Poison Ivy

Updated on July 12, 2010

“Is poison ivy contagious?” is a tricky question to answer. The rash brought on by poison ivy is due to contact with poison ivy and it is possible for someone who just touched the plant to then touch another person, so in some regards poison ivy could be called contagious. But the fact is that resin from poison ivy can be exchanged to someone else but the rash and blisters of poison ivy are harmless if touched by another person.

The thing that makes poison ivy poisonous is a chemical called urushiol. About 75% of the human population will have an adverse reaction to contact with urushiol resulting in a rash. Urushiol is also found in other ordinary poisonous plants in North America like poison sumac and poison oak. Touching the plant anywhere will transfer the poisonous plant oil on your skin.

Timeline from Initial Contact

Because it is so simple to contract the rash from simply brushing up against the plant and possibly then touching someone else makes people ask, "Is poison ivy contagious?". You could get the poison chemical on you if you come into contact with the skin of someone who just came in contact with urushiol because the poison would not yet have absorbed into their skin. Poison resin tends to stay on clothing and the fur of your pets for much longer then human skin.

Between 24 and 72 hours after touching urushiol is when the poison ivy rash shows up. It will commonly start with tiny bumps and end in blisters and a red swollen rash. Blisters differ in size and look yellow in color though the fluid inside is transparent. The healing time of the rash can be vastly increased if you refrain from scratching the skin. It takes approximately two weeks for the normal rash to heal. Some dangerous side effects from poison ivy are inflammation of the face or eyes or if the rash becomes pervasive on the body. Severe symptoms should be checked out by a health practitioner.

Treatments, Both Immediate and Long Term

Occasionally individuals are aware that they just came into contact with poison ivy. If this happens to you do not allow your hands to touch the affected skin and quickly get to a place where you can wash with soap and water. Wash the section of your skin exposed as quickly as feasible, every minute the resin remains on the body, the worse your rash could become.

The optimal technique to care for the rash is to do anything you can to not exacerbate it so that it can heal. There is no poison ivy cure, only items that can help reduce the itch and discomfort. These include steroid and non-steroid topical lotions, antihistamines like Benadryl and soaps that relieve swelling. You will need a prescription from a physician for a few of the remedies mentioned above.

Some Final Words

So poison ivy is contagious in that touching someone who was just exposed to the plant can give you a rash, but from a medical standpoint, poison ivy is not contagious. So that they can not end up with a poison ivy rash, always make sure to not have skin uncovered when in a forest setting and always take off clothing and clean up immediately after returning home.

You can understand even more regarding if poison ivy is contagious and about other outdoor health concerns.


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    • profile image

      Grimmer 2 years ago

      Sure about this? "The healing time of the rash can be vastly increased if you refrain from scratching the skin."

    • profile image

      kevin 5 years ago

      Zanfel. find it. use it. best cure for PI hands down!

    • profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago

      What name brand is this Anti-Itch Cream? I can't really see by this Picture. Does this really work? Does it stop you from itching? I have had this crap for the last 2 weeks. I'm Itching like crazy!! Thanks!!

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 7 years ago from northeastern US

      This article offers good info, but let me be very clear: Once you have washed the urushiol off your skin, you can not spread the rash to other parts of yourself or to other people. Broken poison ivy blisters can not spread poison ivy. It may seem that way because some of the blisters from initial contact may take up to 72 hrs. to appear. So poison ivy dermatitis, an allergic reaction, is NOT contagious any more than hay fever is. That's not at all.