Skip to main content

Scratching the Surface of Poison Ivy’s Itchy Myths

Is it contagious? Can it enter my bloodstream? Myths about poison ivy can leave you scratching your head. Knowing what’s fact and what’s fiction can help keep you safe from an irritating rash. Let’s debunk seven of the most popular poison ivy myths to expose the toxic truth.

Myth 1: Poison ivy is contagious

Fiction. Someone else’s poison ivy rash cannot spread to you. However, the oil found in the plant that causes the rash (called urushiol) can remain on surfaces like skin, clothing, or gardening equipment. To keep from spreading this oil to anyone else, wash anything—including yourself—that’s been in contact with poison ivy right away. Dish soap is effective in washing because it cuts grease and is more likely to aid in the removal of the oil. 

Myth 2: “Leaves of three, let it be”

Fact. Poison ivy and its cousin, poison oak, grow leaves in groupings of three. 

What does poison ivy look like? It can be found as a shrub on the ground or as a climbing vine. In the summer its leaves are green but may have a reddish hue in early spring and fall.

Myth 3: You can have poison ivy in bloodstream symptoms

Fiction. The truth is that poison ivy cannot enter your bloodstream. This myth is popular because urushiol can easily spread from one body part to another just by touching it. The rash will actually only appear wherever contact has been made. 

So, while it can be a real pain, poison ivy can’t actually get under your skin. 

Myth 4: You can only get poison ivy by touching the leaves

Fiction. Urushiol is found on every part of the plant. This means that you can get a rash from touching the leaves, stem, or roots. Even dead plants contain urushiol, so precaution is recommended throughout the year. 

Myth 5: Scratching is bad for poison ivy

Fact. While scratching doesn’t cause the rash to spread, it can lead to further irritation. If your rash has blisters, scratching can cause them to pop and put you at risk for a bacterial infection. We know it’s hard, but we promise you’ll feel better sooner if you don’t scratch. 

How long does poison ivy last? Generally, around 2-3 weeks, though more severe cases may last a month or longer.

Myth 6: Chewing poison ivy can help to build immunity 

Fiction. Please don’t try this! You’ll only end up with a mouth full of regret and a potential rash in your throat. 

Instead, your best bet in avoiding a rash is to be aware of where poison ivy is not to touch it. You can take further precautions with proper clothing and equipment. For example, if you’re hiking, wear long socks or pants. If you’re gardening, wear gloves. 

Myth 7: If you’ve never gotten a poison ivy rash you must be immune

This is a tricky one, as it’s a little of both fact and fiction. It’s true that there are some people out there who are lucky enough to be immune to the effects of poison ivy. However, the majority of us will have a reaction. Just because you’ve never had poison ivy rash symptoms doesn’t mean that you’re immune, and taking precautions is always recommended. 

Is there poison ivy treatment? Relief can be found during any poison ivy rash stages. For mild to moderate cases, treatment includes calamine lotion, cold compresses, or a mixture of baking soda and water. More severe cases may require a prescription for a steroid cream.

The next time you’re tempted to believe a myth about poison ivy, don’t make a rash decision. Instead, look at the facts on a “weed to know” basis to avoid an itchy situation.  

If you do get a rash from a poisonous plant, or if you have any other skin complications, your local vybe urgent care is here to help. We’re available 7 days a week to treat your symptoms so that you can stop itching and feel better soon.