PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Poison ivy is a pain and there’s nothing worse than when you think it’s just about cleared up and it re-appears.

As it turns out, what’s already on your body isn’t spreading.

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“I often see patients in the office who have poison ivy who are concerned it might be spreading. That new spots are appearing every day,” Dr. Brian Horvath, of Horvath Dermatology, said.

It’s not actually spreading, nor can you touch the rash and spread it to other areas.

What’s happening is the plant oil is coming from somewhere, and you may not realize it.

“The oil from poison ivy is very stable. It can stay on clothing, it can stay underneath your fingernails, it can be on pets, it can be on gardening instruments,” Dr. Horvath said.

“It started to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” Louise Williams said. “He asked me first if I garden. And I said no.”

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For Williams, it was probably her horse that carried the plant oil and then its brush and then everything it touched.

The oil can last several years in dead plants, and several weeks on household objects. Shoelaces and doorknobs are common sources.

Dr. Horvath said as soon as you’re out of the woods or garden, you should clean your clothes, your shoes and your tools with warm soapy water.

Sometimes poison ivy can get worse if you’ve had a bad episode and then took too short a course of steroid pills. The rash can flare up again when the medicine is stopped.

A two to three-week course is best.

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