Poison Ivy: The Silent Creeper

Find yourself with an itchy rash that is blistering? You may come in to contact with poison ivy. Haven’t been outside in nature? It could still be poison ivy.

Unlike poison oak and poison sumac, poison ivy is commonly found in Illinois, and can be found in forests but can also be lurking in your gardens and yard. While it can grow like a shrub or a winding vine, all poison ivy plants have the traditional three-leaflet leaf, according to David Robson, pesticide specialist at University of Illinois Extension.

You may have heard from a friend that he or she is immune to the ivy’s bothersome and painful threats, and they actually might be. About 15% of the population does not react upon exposure. The other 85% who show symptoms to contact with poison ivy are actually suffering from an allergic reaction to urushiol, a clear oil that is released from the plant when it is touched, broken, burned.

Once exposed to the oil, it can take minutes for symptoms to begin, but it can also take weeks for proof of your contact with the plant to show. Blisters commonly form in the first day but can take up to 14 days to develop. Contrary to some belief, it is only the oil that causes poison ivy to spread- not scratching the rash or opened blisters. Oils left behind on clothes or pets can transfer to your skin and cause a reaction.

If you think you may have come in contact with poison ivy, your best defense is to wash the suspected area with soapy dish soap water in the first few minutes after contact to remove the oil before it has a chance to cause a reaction. Be sure to clean any tools and wash all clothing that may be carrying the oil to avoid future exposure. If you’re going to work in an area with any plants you’re unfamiliar with, you can purchase what we provide for our crews: be certain prevent any exposure by wearing a disposable protective coveralls with attached hood and booties.

More questions about poision ivy or other unknown plants around your home? Contact us today for a free walk through and consultation with Harvey! Call us at 630-365-3210

University of Indiana

University of Illinois Extension