Poison Ivy: A Real Summer Bummer

If you or someone you know has gotten poison ivy, you can agree with me that it is not something you want to get again.

Because poison ivy is a common plant found in most parts of the United States, it can be difficult to see and avoid.

Poison ivy has two forms: One that grows low to the ground, usually found in groups of many plants and looks like a weed. The other form is a “hairy” vine that grows up a tree. Both have stems with three leaves.

Most people are allergic to poison ivy, so if you see a plant with three leaves, stay as far away as possible.

The poison ivy plant contains an oil called urushiol that bonds to skin within minutes. Anyone who is allergic to urushiol and gets it on their skin will develop an itchy, red rash.

The oil from the plant can also be carried in smoke when the plant is burned.

If you come in contact with poison ivy, wash the area with a plain cool washcloth as soon as possible. This helps to get some of the oil off the skin.

Products that contain solvents such as mineral oil also may help to remove urushiol.

Because the oil from poison ivy can be transferred from clothes, shoes, tools or anything else that has touched the plant, it is important to wash anything that may have touched the plant.

This includes pets if you think your dog or cat may have gotten into it.

A poison ivy rash usually appears a day or two after contact. Initially, the affected area gets red and swollen.

A day or so later, small blisters begin to form and the rash becomes itchy.

Although it is hard to avoid scratching the rash, it is important to do everything possible to resist.

Bacteria from under the fingernails can get into the blisters and cause an infection.

After about a week, the blisters will start to dry up, and the rash will start to go away.

In severe cases, where the poison ivy rash covers large parts of the body, it may last much longer.

A poison ivy rash should go away on its own in one to three weeks.

Anyone who needs relief can use over-the-counter medications such as:
* Hydrocortisone creams (Cortizone-10)
* Calamine lotion
* Antihistamine tablets (Benadryl)
* Cool oatmeal baths may also help reduce some of the discomfort.

If you develop a fever over 100° F, pus comes out of blisters, the rash covers a large area of your body or is in your eyes, mouth or genital area, or if the rash doesn’t get better after a few days, you should contact your medical provider.