MYTH: Poison ivy rash is contagious.
FACT: Since poison ivy rash is an allergic reaction to urushiol (the toxin found in poison ivy, oak and sumac plants), the only ways to contract poison ivy are through direct contact with the plant; indirect contact by touching something that has urushiol on it (like a family pet or garden tool); or through airborne exposure to burning plants.
MYTH: Scratching poison ivy blisters will spread the rash.
FACT: The fluid in the blisters will not spread the rash. After the first five minutes to two hours following exposure, neither scratching nor skin-to-skin contact can spread the reaction. However, excessive scratching may cause infection because it allows bacteria from dirt on the hands to enter the skin.
MYTH: Dead poison ivy plants are no longer toxic.
FACT: Urushiol stays active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to five years in wet climates and up to nine years in dry climates.
MYTH: Once allergic, always allergic to poison ivy.
FACT: A person’s sensitivity changes over time, even from season to season. Sensitivity to poison ivy tends to decline with age, as the body’s immune system slows down.
How to prevent a scratchy situation
l) Know what to look for and educate your family. Prevention is the best form of protection from poison ivy, oak and sumac reactions. Before you head outside, make sure your family knows how to identify these plants so they can avoid them.
2) Wear protective clothing. Clothing, including long pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats and gloves, can help protect you from exposure.
3) Wash outdoor items frequently. Be sure to wash all clothing, shoes, tools or pets that may have been exposed.
4) Do not burn any suspicious plants. Burning the problematic plant and inhaling its smoke can cause a systemic reaction, which can be deadly. Also, do not burn items of clothing or rags that may have been exposed.
5) Stop the symptoms before they start. If you know you’ve been exposed to poison ivy, cleanse the area immediately with plain soap and water to remove urushiol before it has a chance to bind to the skin.