Poison Ivy FAQ

What percentage of people are allergic to poison ivy?

About 85 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, and about 10 to 15 percent of those are extremely allergic. This is the most common allergic reaction in the U.S., and affects as many as 50 million Americans each year.


What is urushiol oil?

Urushiol (you-ROO-she-ol) is a clear, odorless oily resin found in all parts of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac plants, including the leaves, stems, and roots, and is even present after the plant has died. Urushiol is absorbed quickly into the skin. It can also be inhaled if the poison plants are burned. 


Only 1 nanogram (billionth of a gram) needed to cause rash
Average is 100 nanograms for most people
1/4 ounce of urushiol is all that is needed to cause a rash in every person on earth
500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin
Specimens of urushiol several centuries old have found to cause dermatitis in sensitive people.
1 to 5 years is normal for urushiol oil to stay active on any surface including dead plants
Derived from urushi, Japanese name for lacquer



What are symptoms of poison ivy?

First comes the itching, then a red rash, and then blisters. These symptoms of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can emerge any time from a few hours to several days after exposure to the plant oil found in the sap of these poisonous plants.


How do you contract a rash?

The red, blistering and itchy skin rash is an allergic reaction after coming in contact with the oily resin called urushiol (you-ROO-she-ol) in the sap of the plants which is found on the leaves, stems or roots of the poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plant. A skin rash can develop after coming in contact with a poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plant such as while doing yardwork at home or if the plant accidentally brushes against skin while walking or hikingthrough leaves or brush. Even slight contact can leave oil behind. Sticky, colorless and odorless urushiol is very easily spread – you don’t need to actually touch the plant itself to come in contact with it. It can be carried on the fur of animals, on tools or sports equipment – just about anything that came into contact with the poisonous plant.

How long does it take for a rash to appear?

It generally takes about 8-24 hours after exposure for a rash to appear. But it depends on how much oil came in contact with skin, what areas of skin were affected (thinner areas like eyes and face may show a rash sooner) and individual sensitivity to urushiol oil.

How long does the rash last?

It depends on a person’s sensitivity and severity of the rash, but typically a rash lasts 2-3 weeks.

Is poison ivy contagious?

Poison ivy and other poison plant rashes can’t be spread from person to person. But it is possible to pick up the rash from plant oil that may have stuck to clothing, pets, garden tools, and other items that have come in contact with these plants. The plant oil lingers (sometimes for years) on virtually any surface until it’s washed off with water or rubbing alcohol.
The rash will occur only where the plant oil has touched the skin, so a person with poison ivy can’t spread it on the body by scratching. It may seem like the rash is spreading if it appears over time instead of all at once. But this is either because the plant oil is absorbed at different rates on different parts of the body or because of repeated exposure to contaminated objects or plant oil trapped under the fingernails. Even if blisters break, the fluid in the blisters is not plant oil and cannot further spread the rash.

What are ways to prevent getting poison ivy?

  1. Know what the plants look like and where they grow to avoid going near them and making direct contact. See plant identification information (link).
  2. Wear clean protective clothing when active in areas poison ivy is suspected. Weather-permitting, wear boots with high socks and pants while hiking or walking, or gloves and long sleeves while gardening or doing lawn clean up.
  3. Clean gardening gloves and tools regularly, especially after working in leafy areas or where vines were present as urushiol oil can remain on these surfaces.
  4. Avoid touching your face or itching skin if you think you may be near or have touched poison ivy plants or leaves. The urushiol oil is easy to spread and takes only a very small amount to cause a reaction.
  5. If you think you were exposed to poison ivy, it is ideal to wash the affected area within 15 minutes of exposure to remove urushiol oil before it spreads or penetrates skin.


What should I do in case of an emergency?

Seek medical help immediately by contacting a doctor or medical professional, or by dialing 911.

How do Cutter™ Poison Ivy products work?

Cutter™ Poison Ivy products offer relief in a variety of ways.
On-the-go – Cutter™ Poison Ivy Wipes quickly remove Urushiol (the plant oil that can cause an itchy, irritating rash) after suspected exposure to poison ivy, oak or sumac. No water is needed so these wipes can be used quickly after a brush with leaves that could be poison ivy, oak or sumac is suspected. The faster plant oil is removed, the better the chance of reducing the spread and an unwanted skin reaction.
After-care – The red, blistering itchy skin rash associated with poison ivy, oak and sumac can cause ongoing discomfort for days or even weeks after it first appears.

Cutter™ Itch Relief Spray starts working on contact to calm irritated skin and lessen the itch that can be intense enough sometimes to interrupt sleep and other activities.

Skin discomfort can also come from blistering on skin that can occur as part of the reaction after exposure to plant oils.
Cutter™ Drying and Soothing Spray begins drying skin oozing and weeping on contact, while also helping to relieve pain and itching.

These easy-to-use sprays are no-touch and no-mess so there’s no need to touch the affected area directly like with a cream or lotion.

Can I get poison ivy, oak or sumac from my pets?

The rash that poison ivy, oak or sumac causes is not contagious from your dog or other pets, but oil from the plant that ends up on your pet’s fur can spread to human skin and clothing. If you’re out walking with your dog and suspect a run in with poison ivy, wash your pet as soon as possible to help prevent a reaction. Those oils can linger for some time on a pet’s coat, and it only takes a tiny amount to spread.

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, wash your pet immediately. The sooner the oil is washed off the better the chances of avoiding a reaction.

Be sure to wash your clothing and any towels you use immediately after washing your pet to prevent contact with lingering oils.

Prevent Catching Poison Ivy From Your Pet By:

  • Wash your pet immediately after exposure
  • Wash multiple times to ensure the oil is removed
  • Wash your pet’s collar & leash
  • Wear rubber gloves & long sleeves to prevent the oil from spreading to you
  • Wash your clothing & towels after bathing your pet to prevent further exposure
  • Take a shower to get rid of any possible lingering oils on your skin