5 Myths About Poison Ivy and When to Seek Care

With summer still in full swing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the nice weather by getting outdoors. Of course, that also means that poison ivy is still prevalent and causing itchy rashes for countless people.

Since poison ivy is so common, many myths about the plant have arisen over the years. Today, we will look at several of these myths and discuss why they aren’t true. We’ll also discuss how to prevent poison ivy rashes and when you should seek care.

Myth #1: Poison Ivy is Contagious

Many people believe that poison ivy is contagious because of how easily you can get it after touching the plant. However, someone with a poison ivy rash can’t spread it to another person.

That being said, oils from the plant that remain on the skin can spread between people, objects, and even pets. Once you have washed the affected area and remove the oil, the rash isn’t contagious.

Myth #2: You Can Only Get Poison Ivy by Touching Its Leaves

Most people have heard the saying, “leaves of three, let it be.” This, of course, references the poison ivy plant’s famous trio of shiny green leaves. Although it is most common to get a poison ivy rash after touching these leaves, they aren’t the only part of the plant that can cause a rash.

These plants produce an oily substance called urushiol that is found on the leaves, stems, and even the roots. This means that you can get a poison ivy rash from touching any part of the plant—not just the leaves.

It’s also worth noting that you can even get a rash from a dead poison ivy plant. This is important to keep in mind when gardening, pulling weeds, or walking through well-traveled trails.

Myth #3: Touching Poison Ivy Repeatedly Can Build Your Immunity

Another common myth is that you can build up your tolerance to this plant by frequently exposing yourself to it. Some people even go so far as to chew on the plant’s leaves.

It should go without saying that this is a very bad idea. Not only will you likely get a rash, it doesn’t grant you immunity to the plant in the future.

Chewing this plant is especially dangerous as the rash can cause swelling in your mouth and throat that may compromise your airway.

Myth #4: If You Haven’t Gotten Poison Ivy Before, You Are Immune

Those who aren’t trying to build immunity to poison ivy might believe that they already are. Many people who haven’t gotten a rash from this plant before might have heard that this means they are immune.

This myth is partially based in truth. That’s because some lucky people are immune to the rash that’s caused by poison ivy. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone who hasn’t gotten poison ivy is immune.

The large majority of people are susceptible and will have a reaction to the plant. That being said, if you haven’t had poison ivy before, it’s still important to take precautions whenever you might be around it.

Wearing long pants and/or socks and gloves when touching plant matter can greatly decrease your chances of being exposed.

Myth #5: Scratching Makes Your Poison Ivy Rash Spread

If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you know that the rash is extremely itchy. Many people also believe that scratching will cause the rash to spread.

Fortunately, that isn’t true. After washing the urushiol off your skin, poison ivy can’t continue to spread—even if you scratch at the rash.

However, you still shouldn’t do it. Excessively scratching at the rash can cause blisters to break open or create openings in your skin. This leaves you susceptible to infections that will only make your situation worse. So, while scratching this rash won’t make it spread further, it can still make it worse.

When to Seek Medical Care for Poison Ivy

Most of the time, poison ivy rashes can be treated at home. Although you’ll be very itchy for a few days, the rash will usually resolve on its own.

However, there are some occasions when you might need to seek medical care. If you experience any of the following, it’s time to visit your doctor:

  • Swelling around your lips or tongue
  • Rash on your face or genitals
  • Rash covering more than a quarter of your body
  • At-home treatments don’t improve rash after several days
  • Pus forms in blisters
  • You develop a fever
  • Severe pain around the rash

Velocity Urgent Care is Here to Help

If you find that your poison ivy rash isn’t responding to treatment at home, Velocity Urgent Care has your back. Our team of caring providers will examine your rash and determine how to treat it most effectively. Then, we can provide a prescription to address your symptoms and help your rash clear up.

For more serious cases of poison ivy, we can also refer you to a board-certified dermatologist—no visit to your primary care doctor is needed.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care offers convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during a visit. You can sign up for an appointment online ahead of time and arrive when it’s time to be seen to skip the waiting room. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome. To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.