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Why Am I So Itchy?

It was a beautiful day outside today. The sun was shining bright with white, fluffy clouds in the sky. The temperature wasn’t too warm and not too cold, just right to take a hike to explore nature’s beauty. As the day comes to an end, I am starting to experience a lot of itching on my legs. I grab my back scratching stick and use it to scratch my legs, but the more I scratch the worse it gets. Why am I itching so?

There are three types of plants that can cause an allergic reaction if exposed: poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. These plants contain a sticky, long lasting oil that causes itchiness and rashes once it touches the skin. The oily resin (urushiol) can be found in the leaves, stems and roots of the three plants. Here is some information regarding these types of plants.

Poison Ivy

A poison ivy rash that looks like a straight line due to how the plant brushes against the skin. Even if your clothing or pet comes in contact with the oil, it can be transferred to the skin.


  • Redness

  • Itching

  • Swelling

  • Blisters

  • Difficulty breathing smoke was inhaled from burning poison ivy plants

The reaction can develop between 12-48 hours after exposure and can last up to three weeks. The more oil that gets on your skin, the worse the rash will be. Poison ivy is not contagious. You can only get poison ivy from another person by touching the area that he/she has the oil on.

Poison Oak

Just like poison ivy, both poison ivy and poison oak grows as vines or shrubs in wooded or marshy areas throughout the U.S. The poison oak shrub can grow up to six feet tall and have red or green leaves with white, yellow or green flowers.


  • Stinging

  • Itching

  • Red rash that can cause blisters to ooze liquid

Symptoms start to appear between one to six days; however, will be noticed within the first 48 hours.

Poison Sumac

Poison sumac is the less common than either poison ivy or poison oak. The plants grow in wet areas. The tree or shrub has leaves that consist of seven to thirteen leaflets. The leaflets are oval with smooth edges connected to a red stem.


  • Red rash

  • Itching

  • Swelling

  • Patches, bumps, fluid filled blisters

The symptoms range from mild to severe that can last for two to five weeks. The blisters can become infected which will worsen the symptoms.

In most poison ivy, oak and sumac cases the symptoms can be treatable at home. First, use soap and water to wash any areas of the body that had made contact with any of the plants, including the fingernails. There are over-the-counter treatments that can be purchased to relieve pain from the rash, such as hydrocortisone creams. If any of the symptoms become worse, then a doctor should be sought out.

The best preventative measure to take against poison ivy, oak or sumac is to positively identify the plants while outdoors. This will ensure your family and pet to stay safe.

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