May 21, 2019

Treating Poison Ivy: Ease the Itch With Tips From Dermatologists

SCHAUMBURG, IL–(Marketwired – Apr 8, 2014) – As summer approaches and the landscape turns greener, so too are the leaves from poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. When the oil from these plants touches the skin, most people (about 85 percent) develop an itchy, blistering rash. Although the rash itself is not contagious, the oil can spread to other areas of the body and from person to person if not quickly washed off after touching the plants. Fortunately, there are simple steps people can take to safely treat the rash at home.

“If you are absolutely certain that your rash is due to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, and if the rash appears on a small section of your skin, you may be able to treat the rash at home,” said board-certified dermatologist Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, who maintains a private practice in Plano, Texas and serves as clinical assistant professor of dermatology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “However, if you have difficulty breathing or swallowing, you experience swelling, or you have many rashes or blisters, go to the emergency room right away.”

If you are not experiencing a serious reaction, Dr. Desai recommends the following tips for treating the rash and easing the itch:

1. Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. This helps ensure that the oil does not spread to other areas of the body and cause additional rashes.
2. Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.
3. Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to rinse your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.
4. Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.
5. Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.
6. Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.
7. Consider calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Apply calamine lotion to skin that itches. If you have a mild case, a hydrocortisone cream or lotion may also help.
8. Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
9. Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching, however use with caution. You should not apply a topical antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.

“A rash from poison ivy, oak or sumac usually lasts one to three weeks,” said Dr. Desai. “If your rash is not improving after seven to 10 days, or you think your rash may be infected, see a board-certified dermatologist for treatment.”

The “Poison Ivy: How to Treat” video is posted to the American Academy of Dermatology’s (Academy) website and the Academy’s YouTube channel. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers relatable videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series posts to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel each month.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org. Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin).

To view this release in a media-rich version, go to: http://www.pwrnewmedia.com/2014/aad/poison_ivy/


Jennifer Allyn

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Nicole DiVito
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Kara Jilek
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Treating Poison Ivy: Ease the Itch With Tips From Dermatologists

Gloucester County Nature: 'You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion – poison ivy'

Gloucester County Nature Logo

By Karl Anderson

for the Gloucester County Nature Club

Have you just finished spring cleaning your garden? Forgot to wear gloves? And now you have patches of an itchy rash and tiny blisters on your hands and arms?

Hmmm. Maybe you also forgot to notice the smooth stems and tiny, shiny newly-unfolding three-parted leaves of poison ivy.

Too bad; not much you can do about it. There are over-the counter remedies that will dry up the blisters and tone down the itch. Really serious cases can be treated with steroids. Cool compresses can help.

But in any case, the rash will clear up in a week or two, it’s not contagious, and it won’t spread from the area of origin.

Poison ivy grows from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic Coast to Texas. It is common everywhere in New Jersey, except in the Pine Barrens, where it generally grows only on the disturbed soils around home and industrial sites.

It can grow as a ground cover about a foot high, a vine, and even as a shrub. As a vine, it gets quite large, with stems several inches in diameter that cling to the bark of a tree with hundreds of short rootlets. So if you see a big hairy-looking vine climbing a tree, that’s poison ivy.

“Leaves of three, let it be” is a wise maxim for those who want to identify the plant. The individual leaves are two to four inches long, and they grow in groups of three.

The central leaflet is usually quite symmetrical; that is, the halves of the leaf on either side of the midrib are identical. The lateral two leaflets are most often asymmetrical, wider on one side of the midrib than the other.

All of the leaves may have a few shallow blunt lobes. The species most commonly confused with poison ivy are Virginia creeper (which has leaflets in groups of five) and some of the low-growing blackberries (leaves have lots of small sharp teeth, and the stems are thorny or bristly.)

The flowers of poison ivy are small, green, and grow in small clusters beneath the leaves. The fruits are small white berries.

The chemical that causes the allergic reaction to poison ivy is called uroshiol, and it does not affect everybody. This substance is also present in poison oak and poison sumac, two much less common local plants.

Poison oak looks much like poison ivy, but its leaves are more deeply lobed and it grows only as a ground cover, not a vine.

Poison sumac is a small wetland tree with compound leaves, which gives it a slight resemblance to the harmless staghorn, smooth, and shining sumacs.

Those three species have flowers and fruits that form large clusters at the ends of branches but poison sumac flowers and fruit are similar to those of poison ivy.

For information about the Gloucester County Nature Club, see gcnatureclub.org/.


Gloucester County Nature: 'You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion – poison ivy'

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