Is poison ivy contagious? How does it spread from one person to another? Read on to find out
Is Poison Ivy Contagious?
Poison ivy is simply an allergic reaction to the oily substance urushiol. Being a personal allergic response, poison ivy rash is not contagious. However, if a person who has the rash leaves behind the oily substance causing the rash on a surface which you may come into contact with; you are likely to get the rash as well.
Simply put, poison ivy rash itself is not contagious but the plants oil can actually be spread by contact. The oil from the poison ivy plant is contagious. As soon as your skin comes into contact with that oily substance from someone else, you will end up with the rash. If you are seated next to someone who has the poison ivy rash and you do not come into contact with them, you will not get the rash.
Poison ivy rash spreading mechanism
If you come into direct contact with the poison ivy plant, you are likely to get poison ivy rash. This is where your skin gets the urushiol directly from the plant. Since this plant grows with many other plants, you may not realize when you come into contact with the plant. The itching that comes with the rash may be the one to notify you.
This is the most dangerous mechanism of spreading urushiol. It can leave very many people with the rash. It occurs when the oil the rash is left on the surface of an object or a cloth. If you have the oily substance on your skin then you touch the surface of an object, you expose the people around you to the risk of getting the rash.
Making it easy to spread to other people easily is the fact that the urushiol stays on inanimate objects for long. It can last for months or even years on such objects since it does not evaporate. For as long as the oil is on the surface of those objects, anyone who comes into contact with the object stands a chance of getting the rash.
Is poison ivy contagious after a shower
Among the ways of getting rid of the contagious oily substance is by washing it off. However, taking a shower without using soap does not clear the oil from your skin. This is because; the substance responsible for the spread of poison ivy rash is greasy. If you take a proper shower, it cleans off all the oil and that means the oil causing poison ivy rash cannot be spread.
There are things you must remember to do if the shower you take is intended to ensure no possible spread of the rash;
- You are advised use soap to shower and wash away the grease on the affected area.
- The soap you use will work better if an essential oil is added to it.
- Be careful not to spread the greasy substance to other parts off your body. Use a separate wash cloth for the area with the sap.
- Use plenty of water to rinse the area covered by the greasy substance.
As much as you take the shower to protect the people around you, you must remember to protect yourself too. Sometimes, the greasy substance may be left floating in the water as is the nature of oils. That makes it very easy for the oil to spread to other parts of your body.
Additionally, you are advised not to use hot water for the shower. This is because hot water opens the pores of your skin making it very easy for the urushiol to penetrate your skin. The shower should be taken as soon as you get into contact with poison ivy. The sap reduces greatly on your skin as soon as the rash appears.
Can poison ivy spread on sheets?
Poison ivy rash is, as discussed above is not contagious. However, if the oily substance urushiol gets into contact with your sheets and someone else uses them, they are likely to get the rash. As long as the oily substance which is the irritant is not cleaned, another person is likely to get the irritation from the oil.
If the bed sheet comes into contact with the oil, you may have it spread to other parts of your body. To protect possible spread of the oily substance while you sleep, it is important that you keep the area with the oil or the rash covered. Find a clean dressing that you are required to throw the following morning.
In case you suspect that the sheet came into contact with the substance causing poison ivy rash, you are advised to throw the sheet away. Alternatively, you can wash the sheet taking the necessary precaution like covering your hands when you wash it.
The washing should be done in longer cycles than usual with use of strong detergents, probably those made of essential oils. This is as advised by Dr. Christine Choi Kim. Kim advises that you use hot water as it facilitates total removal of the greasy substance.
Tips to avoid poison ivy reaction & Spread
Below are tips that will limit poison ivy reaction and spread;
Avoid the plants
This is the most obvious yet the best way to prevent reaction with poison ivy. You need to be able to identify the poison ivy plant which is found to have leaves that are mostly in groups of three. Before engaging in any activities that involve handling of plants or coming into contact with them, it is important to revise the features of the poison ivy plant.
When hiking, always stay away from plants that you are not aware of. Always walk in clear pathways. If you have pets, keep them away from wooded areas as they may have urushiol stuck on their fur. You may get the rash just by touching the contaminated fur of your pet.
Clean any objects that have been contaminated
If you suspect that some objects have been contaminated by the sap, you are advised to clean such objects very well. You may consider disposing such objects to inaccessible areas. Burning objects that have the oil is not advisable as the smoke coming from such objects when inhaled interferes with your respiratory system. Inhaled urushiol is very harmful to your health.
Kill the plant
While avoiding the plant is a good thing, eliminating it completely is the best option. If the poison ivy plant grows in your compound, remove it and dispose it. Uprooting the plant brings its life to an end. Consequently, the risk of getting poison ivy is brought to an end.
You must remember to wear gloves when handling this plant. When you have killed the plant, remove the gloves and wash them thoroughly preferably in hot water. As stated above, burning the plant should never be part of killing the plant since while you burn it and inhale the smoke, you will be causing harm to your breathing system.
Always wear protective clothing
When handling plants around your house or garden, for instance when removing unwanted plants, it is advisable that you wear protective clothing. This gives you the confidence to go on with your activities without having to worry about the danger of poison ivy plants. Protective clothing includes; gloves, boots, pants, socks and long sleeved shirts. In other words, ensure all your skin is covered.
Apply a barrier cream
As an alternative to wearing protective clothing, you can get skin products meant to protect your skin from allergic reactions such as poison ivy rash. These products can be bought over the counter. Barrier creams that contain bentoquatam are found effective in making it difficult for sap to be absorbed by your skin.
Some protective creams that you could try if you suspect that you will be exposed to poison ivy urushiol are; stokoguard and ivy block. You are required to apply the cream thirty minutes before getting into contact with the plant or objects suspected to have the sap. You are supposed to wash the creams at intervals of four hours as you make necessary reapplications.
Watch out when you go to streams or ponds
Sometimes, the poison ivy plants may hang into water such that you do not even see them. When hanging in water, the urushiol, being greasy, floats in the water and that way you stand a chance of getting the rash. Before swimming or bathing in the contaminated water, always checkout to see if the plants around the place could be poison ivy.
Wash the exposed skin immediately
To avoid spreading the rash to other parts of your body, you are advised to wash the skin which has come into contact with urushiol. Use soap to make it easy for the greasy substance to be fully cleaned. You can use dish soap if you cannot access soaps containing essential oils. Beware of the possibility of the oil floating in the water you use.
Pour any water with the oils floating and replace it with clean water to further rinse the affected skin. The advantage of washing the oil immediately is that it does not give time for the oil to be absorbed into your skin. This prevents the severity of the poison ivy rash that may occur after the exposure.