Fast Fact: Poison Ivy

Have you heard the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”? This well-intentioned saying can help you avoid a run-in with poison ivy, which can cause an itchy, painful rash.

Poison ivy. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Poison ivy grows almost everywhere in the United States except Alaska, Hawaii and parts of the West Coast. The ”leaves of three” saying is a good start to knowing how to identify it. Each poison ivy leaf has three leaflets. The leaves are glossy, and they can have smooth or toothed edges. In the spring, poison ivy leaves are reddish in color, then they turn green in the summer. In the fall, the leaves can turn red, orange or yellow. Poison ivy can grow like a small shrub or like a vine, climbing up trees and other structures.


If you come in contact with poison ivy, you can develop an itchy, red rash because most people are allergic to the oil in the plant, called urushiol oil. The rash is not contagious, and it will only develop where the oil comes into contact with your skin. If you get a poison ivy rash, try not to scratch it. You can relieve the itch with over-the-counter anti-itch medications and skin protectants. Cold compresses or a cool bath can also help.


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