How Long Does Poison Ivy Last?

Photo: getty
how long does poison ivy last
Self

Are you dealing with poison ivy? Are you looking for information about how long does poison ivy last and what the symptoms might be? If so, this article should scratch your itch (literally, maybe) on all you need to know.

First, things first: The plant isn't actually poisonous, but it does have an unfortunately sticky and long-lasting oily resin called urushiol that causes an allergic reaction. This reaction produces an infamously itchy blistering rash after exposure to your skin. And sadly, all it takes is one slight brush of the ivy vine or shrub's leaves to have urushiol lingering on your skin.


RELATED: 20 Best Coconut Oils For Skin That's Smooth, Flawless, And Fresh


The rash can produce any of the following symptoms: Blisters, itching, redness, difficulty breathing (if you burn poison ivy and inhale the smoke, you can have problems with your breathing), and swelling.

Does your itchy rash look like a straight line? It may be due to the way you hit the plant. You can also pass the rash on — not because it's contagious (the rash is not contagious), but if you have urushiol on your hands or fingers, you may inadvertently spread it.

So, what do you do if you have poison ivy? If you brushed up against the plant, wash the potentially affected area with warm water and soap right away. If you are unable to wash with soap, you can use alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol. The quicker you do this, the better, because urushiol sticks to your skin rather quickly.

How long does poison ivy last, and when does it show up? The myth is that the rash will show up right away, which is false. If you've had the bad luck of coming into contact with poison ivy, you're most likely to get the rash within 24 to 72 hours.

The nasty rash will be at its absolute worst within about a week of contact, but much to one's scratchy dismay, the rash can stay for as long as 3 weeks.

According to Dr. Richard Honaker, M.D.  Chief Medical Officer of Your Doctors Online, the rash could stay even longer than that: "With no treatment, it takes several days to weeks to resolve. However, with steroid creams or pills, it can go away as fast as 1-3 days."

As red, inflamed and scratchy as that poison ivy rash will be, the good news is you can't "pass on" the rash to someone else. The only way someone will get a rash is by coming into contact with the ivy itself.


RELATED: The 15 Best Chemical Peels You Can Try At Home For Super-Smooth Skin


So, if you know you may be in an area that's ridden with poison ivy, be smart. Cover up with long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes. If you can, tuck your pants into your shoes and wear gloves. Lotions containing bentoquatam can also make a barrier between that sticky urushiol and your skin, helping to protect you against ivy's rash.

How do you deal with a poison ivy rash? Hopefully, it won't last you three weeks, but poison ivy can linger that long. In order to manage the allergic reaction, here are a few things you can do:

1. Understand that home remedies and over-the counter medications won't cure the symptoms.

However, they will help you feel better. You can try calamine lotion, cool baths or washcloths/compresses using baking soda/oatmeal, diphenhydramine, and hydrocortisone.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

2. Keep the scratching to a minimum.

As much as it itches, it won't spread your rash, but your skin could be really irritated and get infected or possibly scar permanently.

3. See a doctor.

If the rash is near your eyes or spread all over your body, see a doctor for a prescription medication. If you can't breathe or have any symptoms like extreme pain at the rash site, feel light headed or faint, have a fever or feel nauseous, go the emergency room.

The bottom line is that everyone is different, and depending on the rash's size and spread, it may take longer to go away and may have more severe symptoms.So, be patient, be proactive for the future, and repeat home care as much as you can until the rash goes away.


RELATED: 20 Best Toners For Acne That Clear Up Your Skin Fast


Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com.