\”Leaves of three – let it be! \” aptly describes this woody vine with 2-4\” leaflets in groups of three. The center leaf has a longer stem than the other two. Poison ivy clings to tree trunks and other vertical surfaces with hair-like aerial rootlets that grow out of the stem. If a climbing surface isn\’t available, poison ivy will grow as a free standing shrub. The leaves of poison ivy turn shades of red and purple in fall. Poison ivy is caused by an allergic reaction ( ) to the oily coating that covers of these plants. The resinous coating is called \”urushiol\”. These are called Rhus plants after the old scientific name (it was changed to toxidendron). A person doesn\’t have to come in direct contact with the leaves, roots, or branches of Rhus plants to get the rash. One can get it from contaminated clothing. Even in winter the leafless stems and vines can cause the familiar skin rash. No one is born with sensitivity to Poison ivy, but if exposed enough most people become sensitized at some time and remain allergic. A sensitivity can change at any time. There\’s no way to desensitize people allergic to Rhus plants. Dogs and other animals are not affected by poison ivy, but people can get the rash by petting a dog that\’s been exposed.
The rash itself is not contagious, and the fluid in the blisters does not spread the rash. Poison ivy dermatitis appears as soon as four hours or as long as 10 days after the exposure, depending on individual sensitivity and the amount exposure. As the rash appears, any sensitivity a person had begins to increase. One starts to react to the slightest traces of a few molecules on the skin. This causes the rash to appear to be spreading, even after treatment has begun. Poison ivy dermatitis rashes are self-limited; sooner or later they clear up without treatment. Letting nature take its course with mild poison ivy dermatitis is reasonable, but severe rashes need treatment to ease the misery and disability they cause. The very first time this rash is gotten, it lasts longer than a repeat attack, often 3 or 4 weeks. type preparations taken by mouth are dramatically effective in treating Poison ivy dermatitis rash. It\’s safe to take these drugs for a short period (2-3 weeks). If a person has a peptic ulcer, high blood pressure, or diabetes, cortisone should be taken only under close medical supervision. Improvement of the rash should be prompt and steady. It depends on getting enough cortisone.
Blisters and itching will improve with moist compresses. Make a batch of \”Burows solution\” by putting 1 or 2 \”Dome-Boro\” tablets in a pint of water (available from a pharmacist). Apply this to the blistering areas for 20 minutes two or three times daily. Follow the compresses with the prescribed cream if any. Very hot water stops the itch, but is not good for the skin or the rash. When the swelling has gone down, stop the compresses and apply only the cream. Cream applied before the blisters and swelling go down are not effective alone. One may bathe or shower as usual, but avoid hot water. Poison Ivy can be partially prevented by application of \”Ivy Block\” lotion before going in the woods, and washing off an exposed area with \”Technu\” liquid as soon as exposure is detected. In the woods, rub the Jewelweed plant on exposed skin. The tannins in this plant may bind the resin and prevent the rash. This does no harm, but is only effective within 15 minutes of exposure. Clothing, pets, and tools need to be washed or one may become re-exposed to the resin. The medical information provided in this site is for educational purposes only and is the property of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice and shall not create a physician – patient relationship. If you have a specific question or concern about a skin lesion or disease, please consult a dermatologist. Any use, re-creation, dissemination, forwarding or copying of this information is strictly prohibited unless expressed written permission is given by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Dear Ivy, As they say в leaves of three, let it be! Poison ivy is the infamous three-leaved plant that climbs, creeps, and grows in bushes in certain areas of North America. The itchy-scratchy situation that characteristically results from a brush with this ivy is caused by an allergic reaction. Specifically, the allergen is the plantвs oily, sticky resin, called urushoil, found in the roots, leaves, and stems of the plant (itвs also the same resin in poison oak and poison sumac). Most folks will show symptoms of an itchy, blistery rash within 48 hours of contact with the plant. Poison ivy is contagious only by spreading the plantвs oil/resin; the rash itself is not contagious and does not spread. Scratching the rash during the first few days could spread the oil to other parts of the infected person\’s body.
If a person has contact with someone who still has the resin on her/his skin or clothes, it may cause a reaction. A few good showers and a laundry will likely eliminate any residue of the plant oil, and thus, your risk for a rash. The problem with poison ivy is that there is no specific treatment. Unfortunately, the affected person typically has to just wait it out в for about two to three weeks on average. A few home and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies may help soothe itchy skin. These include: Applying calamine lotion, Placing a cool, wet compress over the infected areas a few times daily, Putting an oatmeal-based product on the rash, and Taking an antihistamine medication before bedtime to help ease the zzzвs. List adapted from. If the itching and reaction are persistent, has affected the face or genitals in particular, or covers a large part of the body, itвs a good idea to see a health care provider. Some people have strong allergic reactions that they may require the use of prescription medication. It\’s also possible that if the rash becomes infected, antibiotics may be necessary. In the meantime, keep him from scratching! Alice!