Poison ivy rash is allergic contact dermatitis caused by a substance called urushiol, found in the sap of poison ivy. This same substance can be found in other plants as well, notably poison oak, and poison sumac. Urushiol is a colorless, or slightly yellow oil that oozes from any cut, or crushed, part of the plant, including both stem and leaves. Simply brushing against a plant may not cause a reaction. On the other hand, you may develop dermatitis without ever coming into contact with poison ivy, because the urushiol is so easily spread. Sticky, and virtually invisible, it can be carried on the fur of animals, on garden tools, golf balls, or on any objects that have come into contact with a broken plant. After exposure to air, urushiol turns a brownish-black, making it easier to spot, and is neutralized to an inactive state by water. Once it touches the skin, the urushiol begins to penetrate in a matter of minutes. In those individuals who are sensitive to the chemical, reaction will ap...
In susceptible individuals, poison ivy causes allergic contact dermatitis. While contact may be apparent and avoidable in many cases, it may not be so when clearing brush at the end of the season, and can cause breathing problems if an allergic person inhales smoke from burning brush with poison ivy. Interestingly, the compound that causes the reaction, urushiol, is also found in poison oak and sumac. What few people know if that it is also in the skins of mango fruit!
For more information on the Allergen of the Month feature, see the overview , and check out the previous post on latex .
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