About Poison Ivy: Symptoms and Complications

The effects of the contact dermatitis caused by poison ivy range from a mild, short-lived redness to severe swelling and blisters. Often, the rash contains tiny, itching blisters (vesicles). The rash area may be very small, or may cover a large area of the body. It rarely appears on the soles of the feet or palms of the hand. Usually, the rash first becomes noticeable as patches of red, itchy skin. Small blisters then form, filled with a clear fluid, and eventually break open. In severe reactions, the rash will develop into swollen, extremely painful areas of skin filled with fluid. Itching and a temporary thickening or scaliness of the affected skin may last for days or weeks.

Exposure to poison ivy can cause severe allergic complications, such as a more general swelling, headache, fever or infection. A doctor should be consulted if the rash stays red and itchy for more than two weeks, or if the rash is over most of the body or near the eyes. Also, the urushiol toxin in poison ivy is not killed by fire. As a result, being exposed to or inhaling the smoke from burning poison ivy can cause a severe allergic reaction, both inside the body as well as on the skin.

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