If you have ever gardened, hiked, or camped, odds are you crossed paths with poison ivy. And it probably wasn’t the most pleasant experience either, as it can severely irritate the skin. So, we figured to answer some common questions we get about the notorious plant so you are better equipped the next time you come in contact with it.
What is poison ivy?
Poison ivy is a member of the Toxicodendron plant family. It can grow as either a shrub or a climbing vine. Most show the three-leaflet formation typical of a Toxicodendron, although this can vary.
What causes the skin reaction?
Surprisingly, the plant itself does not cause irritation. It’s actually the allergenic oil it contains (urushiol) that does. Depending on the individual’s sensitivity and degree of exposure, the reaction can range anywhere from mild itching and redness to severe discomfort and blistering in the affected areas.
When will symptoms show?
Most people develop symptoms within 24-48 hours after exposure.
Does everyone experience a reaction?
Interestingly enough, not everyone will have a reaction to poison ivy. About 15% of people are actually not allergic to urushiol.
What to do if you believe you may have come in contact with it?
If you suspect you may have come in contact with poison ivy, wash your skin right away using lukewarm, soapy water. The sooner you can wash it, the better. Also, make sure to wash any clothing and/or footwear that may have come in contact. And if you were out with your dog, rinse them (and their leash) off, as the oil can actually stick to their fur. It’s important to note, that when handling anything that may have come in contact with poison ivy, the oils can spread to your skin. So, always make sure to wear gloves.
What to do if you develop a rash or blisters?
As with any rash, avoid touching it. This can worsen it and cause an infection. If you have any blisters, also leave them alone. Popping it can leave the exposed skin vulnerable to infection.
How can discomfort be eased or treated?
One of the best ways to soothe your skin is with short, lukewarm baths. Adding colloidal oatmeal to it will help with the itching. For further itching relief, try using a calamine or hydrocortisone cream/lotion. And then finally, if needed, an antihistamine. Just make sure not to apply an antihistamine topically, as it can worsen the rash and itch.
If you believe you may have come in contact with poison ivy, contact our office right away. Early treatment is crucial in treating the associated skin conditions.
Source: The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)