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Posts Tagged ‘Poison Ivy’

Leaves of Three, Let Them Be: Tips for Preventing and Treating Poison Ivy. By Our June Student Pharmacist, Megan Chaney, Who Suddenly Feels Itchy!

Have you ever wondered: Can I get poison ivy? Not everyone is actually allergic to poison ivy, but up to 85% of Americans are. If you are allergic to poison ivy, there is a good chance you are also allergic to poison oak and poison sumac. All three plants contain the same oil called urushiol (pronounced yoo-ROO-shee-all) which causes you to itch and develop a rash.

There are a few ways you can get poison ivy, such as:

  • Direct contact with the plant.
  • Indirect contact when you touch pets, gardening tools, sports equipment, or other objects that had direct contact with the plant.
  • Airborne contact from burning these plants, which releases urushiol into the air causing the chemical to come in contact with the skin, lungs, or eyes.

After you have come in contact with the oil from the plant, the itchy, blistering rash often does not start until 12 to 72 hours later. The rash itself is not contagious, only the oil from the plant. It might seem to spread, but this is simply a delayed reaction. Scratching the rash doesn’t cause it to spread either, but can cause the skin to take longer to heal and cause additional problems–for example, an infection.

Common symptoms of poison ivy, oak, or sumac include:

  •     Red streaks or patches
  •     Itching/Burning
  •     Rash
  •     Swelling
  •     Blisters that may  leak fluid  and later crust over

Within a week or two most people see the rash begin to clear up. Here are some suggestions to help prevent the spread of the rash, as well as treatment options to help you feel more comfortable until the rash goes away:

  • Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. Rinsing your skin ensures that you get the oil off of your skin and prevents it from spreading to other areas on your body or even other people.
  • Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface, including things such as gardening tools or pets, to prevent it from spreading.
  • Wash your clothing as soon as possible. The oil can stick to clothing and potentially cause the rash to come in contact with your skin.
  • Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.
  • Take colloidal oatmeal baths to help soothe itching. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water for the same results.
  • Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to skin that itches.
  • Use cool compresses to 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.
  • Consider taking antihistamine pills such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra. These pills can help lessen itching. Do not apply an antihistamine to your skin because this could potentially make the rash worse.

If you have a serious reaction, you need to see a doctor right away. Signs of serious reaction include:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • The rash covers most of your body.
  • Extreme swelling, especially your eyelids.
  • The rash is on your face or genitals.
  • Much of your skin itches or nothing seems to ease the itch.

Stay clear of poison ivy and enjoy your summer!





Poison Ivy. You Can Still Get it Even as the Weather Changes! By Our October Student Pharmacist, Tracey Dowdell.

I don’t know about you, but I love going into the woods and escaping from all of the troubles of everyday life and achieving a moment of serenity. Braving the wilderness also means that I will potentially come into contact with some of the negative traits of the woods such as mosquitoes, snakes, spiders, and poison ivy.

In this blog post, I will address the various home treatment options for poison ivy.

Let’s start out with discussing what causes poison ivy. The itchy, blister rash that comes from contact with poison ivy is actually caused by the oil from the plant called urushiol. Even though it may look like everything in the woods is drying out and getting ready for winter, urushiol is still on the leaves and actually may be more abundant due to the dryness and cracking of the leaves. After contact with urushiol, approximately 50% of people develop signs and symptoms of poison ivy. The symptoms and severity differ from person to person.

Common symptoms of poison ivy include:

  • Intense itching
  • Skin swelling and redness
  • Blisters (little bubbles of skin that are filled with fluid)
    • FYI: touching the blisters or the fluid inside the blisters will not spread the rash (only the urushiol oil causes the rash).

The best way to treat poison ivy is to avoid it! Since it is bonfire season, please make sure that there are not any poison ivy plants on the wood that you will be burning. It is possible to get the rash from the oil being vaporized as it burns and coming into contact with your skin.

When you are in the woods, you need to know how to identify poison ivy. We all have heard the saying, “Leaves of three, let them be.” While the rhyming slogan is easy to remember, identifying poison ivy is not always that obvious. See the pictures in this blog to help you know poison ivy when you see it.

What to do when you know you have come into contact with poison ivy:

  • The first thing you should do is thoroughly wash your skin with a mild soap, such as Dial or Dawn dish soap.
    • The key is to not use fancy soaps, because the oils in these kinds of soaps will not allow the oil to be removed from your skin.
    • Don’t forget to thoroughly wash under your fingernails.
    • Next make sure you wash EVERYTHING that may have come into contact with the poison ivy.
      • This includes your clothes, dog/cat, and don’t forget your shoes and shoelaces!

Your rash should go away on its own within one to three weeks, but if the itching is unbearable you can do and use the following over the counter treatments to help relieve the itching:

  • Avoid scratching (scratching actually makes the itch worse).
  • Soak in oatmeal baths.
  • Apply cool, wet compresses such as washcloths or paper towels.
  • Apply calamine lotion.
  • If your rash has blisters and they begin to ooze fluid, use astringents containing aluminum acetate (Burrow’s solution™ or Domeboro™).
  • Steroid creams may be helpful if they are used during the first few days after symptoms develop.
    • Hydrocortisone 1% is available over the counter.
    • Antihistamines do not help to relieve itching caused by poison ivy.
      • The ones that make you sleepy (i.e. diphenhydramine aka: Benadryl™) can help you to ignore the itch while you are asleep.

Treatments you should avoid because they can make your rash worse:

  • Antihistamine creams or lotions (i.e. Benadryl™ or Allegra™ CREAM).
  • Pain relieving creams containing benzocaine.
  • Antibiotic creams containing neomycin or bacitracin (i.e. Neosporin™).

You should see your doctor or nurse if:

  • Your rash is severe.
  • Most of your body is affected.
  • Your face or genitals are affected.
  • You have a lot of swelling.
  • Your rash oozes pus or gives other signs of being infected.
  • Your rash does not get better after two to three weeks.

I hope you can enjoy the wonderful fall weather. I know I will be enjoying the outdoors this season!

Poison Ivy. By Our Student Pharmacist, Nick Trego.

Toxicodendron radicans, also known as poison ivy, is a common nuisance encountered by anyone participating in outdoor activities. Whether you are gardening, hiking, exploring the woods, or working outside, you will likely run across poison ivy at some point in time. This plant is difficult to identify, but knowing how to identify poison ivy will most likely save some suffering. The following link provides some help with the identification of the poison ivy plant: Identification

The poison ivy plant produces an oily resin called Urushiol. Urushiol is the compound that causes allergic reactions in humans. This oil can stay on clothes, gloves, shoes, and any other object (even your pets!) for very long periods of time. It is very important, therefore, to thoroughly wash any object that might have come in contact with the poison ivy plant to prevent further spread of the oil. If the contaminated objects are not washed, the oil can stay on the surface and cause a reaction the next time somebody touches or uses the object. This is why poison ivy is commonly mistaken as being “contagious” or “spreading” on a person without the person being outside or close to the original source.

For more poison ivy myths: Myths

Some common ways to prevent poison ivy are to:

1. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.

2. Wash clothes, hands, and tools after being outdoors.

3. Apply products that block the spread of poison ivy.

4. Avoiding burning the plants, as the smoke of the burning plant can still cause irritation and an allergic reaction.

At least 50% of people who come in contact with the plant or oil develop an itchy rash that can become quite annoying and painful. It usually takes 12-72 hours after contact with the plant for a rash to develop and the rash can last for up to three weeks. Although the rash does not look pleasant and can cause discomfort, poison ivy is usually a mild condition and will resolve on its own. The rash is a delayed reaction. Therefore, if the rash gets larger from day to day, it is not spreading, but still developing from the initial exposure. Scratching the rash will not spread the poison ivy unless Urushiol oil is still present on the skin. However, scratching is not recommended due to the irritation it causes to the already damaged skin. Scratching also increases the potential for breaking the skin and eventual scarring.

The FDA released this document for poison ivy awareness:  FDA awareness

Identification of the poison ivy rash is important because the area of the rash needs to be washed immediately to remove Urushiol oil from the skin to prevent further spreading.

Common symptoms of poison ivy reactions include redness, itching, swelling, and blisters. Any area of skin believed to be exposed to poison ivy should be washed thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, specialized poison plant washes, degreasing soaps, or detergents. This washing should be done with plenty of water to remove the Urushiol oil from the skin. Then, the exposed person should scrub underneath their fingernails to make sure all the oil is off of their hands.

The poison ivy rash can be treated by soothing the area with a cold compress and applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching. If the skin becomes broken (bleeding occurs), hydrocortisone cream should no longer be used. Oatmeal baths can also be helpful for itch relief. Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can be taken to help reduce the allergic reaction. If the skin becomes broken, the rash covers more than 1/3 of the body, or the rash is on the face or genitals, medical attention should be sought. Oral corticosteroids are often prescribed by doctors in treatment of serious poison ivy reactions.

Fact or Fiction? Poison Ivy. By Anna Gehres, Our In-House Poison Ivy Powerhouse!

How much do you know about poison ivy? Take this quiz to find out:

T / F: Poison ivy rash can be spread from one person to another.

T / F: You can get poison ivy from simply being near a poison ivy plant.

T / F: You can not get poison ivy from a dead poison ivy plant.

T / F: Some people are immune to poison ivy.

All of the above are FALSE! Here are the facts:

The rash caused by poison ivy is the result of oil found on the plant called urushiol oil. Unless urushiol oil is still on the skin, a poison ivy rash can not be spread from one person to another. The skin must come into direct contact with the oil for a rash to develop. Urusiol oil can still be present on dead plants and in the smoke from burning poison ivy plants.

If you do run into some poison ivy this summer, wash well with soap and water as soon as possible. Remove and wash any clothing that might have come in contact with the poison ivy plant. Should a large rash or a rash on a sensitive area such as the face develop make sure to seek medical attention.

If the rash is small and mild, oatmeal baths or calamine lotion can soothe the itch. A topical cream such as hydrocortisone can be used for a short time to help decrease itching as well.

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