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5 tips on how to recognize, prevent and treat poison ivy

Posted on by Joan B Thode, MD

 

Nothing can ruin summer fun like a bout with poison ivy.

As you head out into the garden or woods this weekend, be on the lookout for leaves of 3...and as the old adage and suggests: let it be. If you do have a run-in with poison ivy, there are steps you can take to help ease the itch.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Poison ivy has three leaves with smooth edges that come together with a red-colored stem. The leaves are reddish in the spring and green in summer. It grows from a vine that can be found on the ground or wrapped on tree trunks.
  • If you are exposed to poison ivy, wash the affected skin right away. The rash occurs when the immune system reacts to the oils on the poison ivy leaves. These oils can be spread by contact (including contact with surfaces that have the oils on them, such as the fur of a dog that recently ran through a poison ivy patch). Washing any exposed areas helps minimize the oils on the skin.
  • If it's your first exposure to poison ivy, the rash may take up to two weeks to erupt on the skin. If you've had the rash before, however, it usually comes out within 4 to 48 hours of exposure.
  • The rash is extremely itchy and can appear like bubbles of clear fluid on a red base. While the oil on the surface of the skin can initially spread, the fluid from the bubbles cannot spread the poison ivy rash. Get relief with oral antihistamine and topical drying compound like calamine
  • Seek medical care if the rash is on the face, genitals or in multiple body locations on the body, as more aggressive treatment may be needed.

 | Roseville Pediatrics - North Pointe

Joan B. Thode, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with LG Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics. Education: Undergraduate—Franklin & Marshall College; Medical School—George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Residency—NYU Langone Medical Center.

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