What Does Poison Ivy Rash Look Like?

Poison ivy is a plant that most people would like to avoid. The scourge of campgrounds and summer getaways, poison ivy causes an uncomfortable and unsightly rash in most people who come into contact with it. Recognising the plant, and the rash that it causes in people, can be difficult for those who've never seen either one. However, forewarned is in this case forearmed.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is a plant that often blends in with other vines or weeds in the undergrowth. Between 6 and 30 inches tall if it grows from the ground, or much longer if it grows like a hairy vine up a tree, both versions of poison ivy have stems with three leaves. This has given rise to the common saying, "Leaflets three, let it be."


Most people who come into contact with poison ivy will develop a rash. This is because the plant secretes an oil called urushiol. When a person touches poison ivy, this oil will bond with the person's skin and cause irritation, and the itchy, unpleasant side effect of poison ivy rash.

Initial Appearance

The rash caused by poison ivy is usually red and extremely itchy. The first symptoms of it will appear between one and two days of the urushiol oil bonding with the person's skin. However, it's also very important not to scratch the affected skin so as not to spread the rash.


A day or so after the redness and swelling of the initial rash, small blisters will begin to form on the rash. Scratching these blisters may cause infection, so someone suffering from poison ivy should make sure not to do so.


Generally speaking, a poison ivy rash will only last for about a week from the initial swelling and redness. However, if the area of skin that's affected is relatively large then the rash may last longer. The symptoms won't change though, no matter how large the rash is.

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About the Author

Neal Litherland is an author, blogger and occasional ghostwriter. His experience includes comics, role playing games and a variety of other projects as well. He holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, and resides in Northwest Indiana.