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Poison Ivy: What Does It Look Like & FAQ

My family and I are actually out camping at William O’Brien state campground on the St. Croix River this weekend. The weather is fantastic (in the high 60’s) and the kids are ready to go exploring.

One big question that came up as soon as we got here was “What does Poison Ivy look like?” from one of my daughters. I actually got asked this from my wife and both of my older kids on separate occasions as well. Realizing that most people (especially kids) don’t know what poison ivy looks like, we thought a quick post explaining what to look for would be beneficial for our readers.

A Few Facts About Poison Ivy

  • Poison Ivy is a small shrub that is usually about knee high.
  • It has very few branches and typically is a rather small plant.
  • It can be found all over the U.S. except for certain areas around the West Coast.
  • It is actually a very hardy plant that has been found in almost all areas, but mostly thrives in heavily wooded areas.
  • Poison Ivy typically grows in patches up to 20 feet in diameter. Single plants are uncommon.

Identifying Poison Ivy

Luckily Poison Ivy is a very easily identified plant.

  • Leafs on Poison Ivy ALWAYS grow in groups of 3.
  • Has a shorty wood like stem.
Poison Ivy
Close up detail of a Poison Ivy Plant.

About The Poison

  • The poison is found in all parts of the plant: leaves, stem & roots.
  • Poison starts out clear but will turn black and gummy after a few hours.
  • Poison will stay toxic indefinitely.
  • Poison is absorbed into the skin very quickly. Immediately wash with COLD if you come into contact and you may get lucky. Hot water will open your skins pours and may make things worse.
  • Symptoms typically appear after 12 hours.
  • The rash caused by Poison Ivy is likely to be the itchiest thing you ever experience.
Poison Ivy Rash
Pointing at itchy poison ivy / poison oak rash and infection with blisters and oozing


  • Once you have the itch there are really no great ways of dealing with it.
  • A long hot shower can help after you have washed off any oil residue with cold water.
  • Over the counter itch cream.
  • Heat can calm the itch, carefully use a blow dryer.
  • Spray with deodorant containing aluminum.
  • Poison Ivy: What Does It Look Like & FAQ 1Poison Ivy: What Does It Look Like & FAQ 2
    Tech Labs Technu Skin Cleanser is one the best treatments available for poison ivy. It is a skin wash that removes all poison ivy and poison oak oils from your skin as well as stops itching and helps healing. It can also be used to wash any tools, clothing or pets that have come into contact with poison ivy.


  • Once the itching starts it may last from 1-3 weeks.
  • If it seems severe, see a doctor. Poison Ivy can cause some serious issues.
  • Poison Ivy is not contagious once absorbed into the skin. However when the oil is on the skin it may be spread all over your body, so be very careful about scratching and rubbing as you may end up spreading the rash.
  • You can get the poison on yourself from clothes or pets.
  • Pets are not allergic to the poison.
  • Since the poison stays toxic indefinitely, throw affected clothes away if possible. If not, wash, re-wash, use bleach and cross your fingers.

Getting Rid of Poison Ivy

If you have Poison Ivy growing on your land, there is really only one good way of getting rid of poison ivy. Roundup. Suck it up and spray it. If you use a weed whipper you run the risk of splattering poison everywhere. If you burn it, you could inhale the poison which could make you insanely sick. Mowing can be hazardous and may not ever kill it. Pulling it up from the roots is risky as well.

Roundup has a version specifically made for poison ivy called Roundup Poison Ivy (clever huh?). This version of Roundup is formulated to penetrate the waxy leaves of poison ivy and kill the plant.

Hopefully you or your family never have to experience poison ivy or can identify it without coming into contact. Good luck and Stay Clear!