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Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac

Poison ivy/oak/sumac are the most common causes of allergic reaction in the United States, affecting about 50 million people each year.

What causes Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac?

Contact with the chemical urushiol, found in the plant sap or resin causes an allergic reaction. Others who come in contact with the plant resin on clothing, animal fur, or other objects may also develop a rash

How is Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac spread?

Poison ivy/oak/sumac are not passed from one person to another but can be spread person to person through direct contact with the resin. A person may spread the rash by accidentally rubbing the resin on other parts of the skin before all resin is washed off

What are the symptoms of Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac?

Contact usually causes red, swollen skin, blisters and severe itching. Rash usually reaches its peak after five days, and is gone within one to two weeks.

How long is it contagious?

Poison ivy/oak/sumac are not contagious. Neither the rash nor the fluid from open blisters contain urushiol.

How can I prevent infection?

  1. Resin can travel through the air on soot particles when the plant is burned. Exposure to the smoke can cause a reaction. Bag plants, don’t burn them.
  2. Washing with cold running water and scrubbing under fingernails within 10-15 minutes after exposure may prevent a reaction. Bathing can spread the resin to other parts of the body.
  3. Wash clothing or jewelry that may have had contact with the resin.
  4. Try not to scratch. This can lead to secondary infections.


For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Revised November 2014