Poison Ivy: “Leaves of Three, Let them Be”





Kate Michalak, L.Ac., PA-C, Cornerstone Family Healthcare

What is Poison Ivy?

It is a rash comes from the oil of certain plants.  The oil is called urushiol.  The rash is itchy and can spread to wherever the oil touches.  The rash tends to be patchy or linear, raised and fluid filled, and very itchy.

Is it contagious?

The rash is not contagious, however the oil is present on and object and that object touch the skin the rash and break out.  An example is if the oil get on a pair of gardening gloves any area of skin that those gloves touch, may break out in the rash.

How do I avoid getting it?

The best way to avoid getting the rash is to know what the plant looks like, and remember the rhyme “Leaves of three, let them be.”


If you see any of these in your yard, garden, or play area avoid them.  If possible cover all skin with clothing and gloves and remove plants, then wash clothing in hot water to dissolve the oils.  If you think you came into contact with the plants or oils, shower in hot/warm water with soap, and wash all clothing hot water.  This will dissolve the oil and prevent it from spreading.  There are some commercial preparations that are available over the counter  for washing, such as Technu.

Is it serious?

The rash for poison ivy is general not serious just uncomfortable and last 2-3 weeks.  It can be more serious if it is on the face and around the mouth and eyes.  Some individuals that are highly allergic may have swelling.  If there is any swelling of mouth or tongue, or if any shortness of breath it is import to seek medical care immediately.  It is also possible to develop an infection due to breaks in the skin.  If there is any signs of increasing redness, pain, warmth to area seek medical attention.

How is it treated?

The rash is treated differently based on severity and location.  Treatments range from topical steroid creams, to oral antihistamines and steroids.  The treatments don’t lessen the duration of the rash, but they do help lessen itching and discomfort.

If you are concerned about symptoms of the rash, please contact your doctor. You can also visit our Urgent Care. A list of our hours are listed here: http://www.cornerstonefamilyhealthcare.org/locations/

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  • Providers involved include:

    Monica Francis, PA

    Avi Silber, MD, FAAP
    Tracy Lucas, FNP
    Adeola Ayodeji, MD, FAAP

    Chanchal Singh, MD
    Sneha Shrivastava, MD
    Penelope Guccione, FNP

    Julie A. O’Connor, CM, LM, MS
    Marian Seliquini, CM, LM, MS

    Koreen E. Thomas, FNP
    Andrea Giovinazzo, FNP-C

    Kate Michalak L.Ac., RPAC

    Alban Burke, DDS

    Neha Dada, O.D.

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