There are some lucky people who don’t get poison ivy or oak. If you’re like me, you do. Here are some poison plant pointers:
Ivy block cream prevents poison ivy or oak, but only if it is applied 15 minutes before exposure. It doesn’t work after you’ve been exposed.
The intensely itchy, sometimes frighteningly-bubbly rash is an allergic reaction to oil, urishiol, found on poison ivy, oak and sumac plants.
You can wash off the oil with soap and water. Do not use laundry detergent, alcohol, or expensive poison ivy soap — any ordinary bar of soap will wash off the oil. However, the oil is quickly absorbed into your skin, like olive oil into nice piece of Italian bread, so time is of the essence. Once the oil is absorbed in your skin, you cannot get it out no matter what you use.
- You can wash off 50% of the oil within 10 minutes
- You can wash off 10% of the oil within in 30 minutes
- After 1 hour, no amount of washing will make any difference. Nothing will prevent the soon to be rash.
Whatever you do, don’t touch your groin in the first hour or so. You could end up in the hospital; I’ve seen it.
After one hour, you cannot spread poison ivy to someone else. Scratching or breaking the water blisters does not spread the poison ivy or the rash.
The rash lasts for 2 weeks, sometimes less if it is not severe. No cream or treatment, however expensive, can shorten the duration. The rash must run its course.
Once the blistering dries up, apply a topical steroid like hydrocortisone 1% cream or anti-itching lotions like topical Calamine or Benadryl. Cool baths with collodial oatmeal will also help. Super hot showers will relieve the itching, but only temporarily, and in the end, only makes it worse.
If you have a severe case of poison ivy, defined by your mother doesn’t recognize you or you are unable to sit, stand, or lie down, then see a dermatologist for prescription drugs to help.
Photo: Jim Frazier (flickr)
Post by Dr. Benabio, copyright The Derm Blog 2009.