Poison Ivy is a common problem for families in the summer. Our clinic will see patients year round for severe rash with itching that is common with Poison Ivy. But the season usually starts in earnest during the spring months of March and April.
The best protection for poison ivy is prevention. Here are three ways that you can protect your family.
Avoidance: First and foremost is being able to identify poison ivy. A common phrase is “Leaves of three, let them be.” Wearing clothing that covers the skin is the first and best way to avoid contact. It is the resin or sap that you want to keep off the skin and long pants and shirts will do the job. It is important to remember that the sap may be on clothing and should be washed and handled with care. If you touch the sap on the clothing you can get a rash just as if you had touched the plant. Also remember that pets may run through poison ivy and carrying the sap on their fur. This may be a source of transmission and washing after a hike is important.
Washing: If you know that you have sap on your skin washing can prevent an allergic reaction. Time is important. The sooner the better but even washing up to a couple of hours later may reduce your bodies response. There are over the counter products that are can be used but soap and water has been shown to work just as well.
Barrier Creams: This is a new area and acts like clothing to block the sap from the skin. The efficacy is not clear at this time but may be more common in the future.
Treatment: If you do get a rash treatment would include steroid cream. This may be successful in the first couple of days and for small areas. If the rash is more extensive or lasting longer than a couple of days you probably need oral steroid treatment from a physician. Benadryl and help with the symptoms of itching but will not resolve the rash.