Poison ivy, Poison oak, and Sumac all contain an oil called urushiol (yur-oo-shee-aal). An itchy and inflamed rash can result when urushiol touches your skin due to an immune response. The resulting condition is contact dermatitis.
Poison ivy is found throughout the US, except Alaska, Hawaii, and some parts of the West Coast. It grows in the form of a vine or a small shrub. Although poison ivy is not contagious, if the plant oil comes into contact with clothes, pets, or gardening tools that then come into contact with your skin, a rash can develop. The more exposure you have to these plants, the more severe your allergic reaction tends to be. There are also a few people who seem to be immune and typically will not develop a rash. And others who may get a mild case that left untreated, will eventually clear on its own within two to three weeks.
Initial self-treatment includes thorough washing with lots of water and soap to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. Also, be sure to wash the clothes you were wearing, along with anything that may have touched the plant.
Poison ivy does not have a cure but you can try some things yourself for relief. These treatments are thought to soothe itching, dry up the rash, and reduce the risk of infection.
- Apply cool compresses to the skin.
- Use topical treatments to relieve itching, including calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, Tecnu, Zanfel, or aluminum acetate (Domeboro solution).
- Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can also help relieve itching.
- Over-the-counter pain medication may be necessary for pain control.
Other natural treatments for poison ivy rash include:
- rubbing alcohol
- oral homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron
- witch hazel
- baking soda and water paste (3-to-1 ratio)
- baking soda bath
- aloe vera gel
- cucumber slices
- cold water compress
- warm colloidal oatmeal bath
- bentonite clay
- chamomile or eucalyptus essential oils
If any of this works, the poison ivy rash will go away within one to three weeks. You also probably have a mild case and after the first week, it should begin to dry up and fade.
Dr. Monique Cohn recommends; if you are having a bad or uncomfortable reaction, get in to see a dermatologist as soon as you can. She likes to hit the reaction hard and reduce the symptoms early. If the rash persist for several weeks or if itching interferes with your ability to sleep or perform normal daily activities, Dr. Cohn often will:
- Administer an intramuscular shot of Kenalog
- Prescribe a tapering dose of Prednisone
- Prescribe a topical steroid cream
- and recommend taking a prescription antihistamine
However, some reactions can be severe and if you can’t see a dermatologist right away, definitely go to the Emergency Room for urgent medical care if:
- you have shortness of breath
- you have trouble swallowing
- the areas with the rash are swelling abnormally
- the rash covers a large area of your body
Call for an appointment with Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD or Stacey Kimber, PA-C at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center at 330-425-7600. If you have a bad case of Poison Ivy, we will try to get you in the same day you call!