Everyone knows poison ivy and the notorious rash that comes with it, but a lot of confusion still swirls around this mysterious plant. There are many misconceptions dealing with how you can catch it and how contagious it is. We hope to clear up any confusion by presenting you with a list of myths and facts about poison ivy.
Animals such as deer, raccoons, rats, bears, and muskrats all feed on poison ivy without getting the nasty rashes we do but they can be vectors for transmitting the oils to you. If your dog goes chasing a rabbit through the woods and brushes up against some he can easily pass it onto you when he hops into your lap for a rubdown.
Direct contact is the most obvious and sure way to get poison ivy but urushiol is hardy stuff and can stick to almost anything. It is easy to get poison ivy from tools, clothes, and even your pet’s fur as the urushiol can linger around for up to five years. You can even get nasty painful blisters down your throat and on the lining of your lungs by burning poison ivy (not smart) or logs that once touched it.
Poison ivy and poison oak commonly in growing clusters of three leaves making them easy to spot. The leaves can vary in shape, size, and in rare cases, the number of leaves. The leaves can be reddish in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall.
Urushiol can bind to the skin in 30 minutes or less. At that point, it can no longer be washed away and you are stuck with whatever reaction you get. In that 30 minute window, however, it is possible to spread the oil to other parts of your body. This is why your mother told you not to scratch it. After that window closes the rash can no longer spread to other parts of your body or to other people because the blisters do not contain urushiol.
While over 80% of the population is allergic to urushiol, it does affect some people more than others or sometimes not at all. But if you are allergic and think that by exposing yourself to it over and over again will help build your immunity to it you’ll soon learn that was a bad idea. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t build immunity to urushiol and each time you expose yourself to it can make the reaction worse. If you didn’t get poison ivy the first time you came into contact with it you’ll more than likely get it the second time. Remember, urushiol can take up to 10 days to cause an allergic reaction after it binds to the skin.
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