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Need Poison Ivy, Sumac or Oak Treatment?

Posted by on 20 Aug, 2015


Have a nasty rash that you think might be poison ivy, sumac or oak? Though there are over the counter medications to help soothe the pain, in some cases, you may need to seek additional help.

These plants contain an oily resin called urushiol , which causes a red, blistery rash on the skin. If you think you’ve been exposed, poison ivy, sumac or oak treatment starts by washing the skin with lukewarm, soapy water.

The only sure way to avoid poison ivy, sumac or oak treatment is to stay away from the plant. These plants grow as a vine depending on the climate and appear as seen below:

Unfortunately urushiol will stick to more than just skin – clothing, shoes, tools and even animal fur. The compounds in the resin are very stable, so touching something with urushiol on it will transplant the oil back to your skin, causing an instant rash. As part of poison ivy treatment, it’s important to wash anything that came in contact with the poison ivy, including your clothing, towels, garden tools shoes and even your dog’s fur.

How is it treated?

To treat contact with poison ivy, sumac, or oak, follow these steps:

  • As soon as possible, wash all exposed skin gently with strong soap and water (or just water) to remove the plant’s oils. A new product called Zanfel is a strong soap that is especially effective in preventing or relieving poison ivy symptoms.  Applying rubbing alcohol will help break up the oil residue and cool the surface of the skin.
  • Remove your clothes and shoes. Wash your clothes in detergent and water.
  • Soak some cloth in aluminum acetate solution (Burrow’s solution) and put the cloth on the rash. Then put calamine lotion or ointment on your skin to reduce the redness, ease the itching, and help dry up the blisters. Soaking in a lukewarm bath with cornstarch (1/2 cup) or colloidal oatmeal added may help ease the itching. DO NOT put lotion-containing antihistamine on your skin.
  • Cover any oozing blisters with a clean gauze bandage soaked in a baking soda and water solution.

Once the oil is washed off the skin, the rash cannot be spread by scratching itchy skin or from oozing blisters. However, scratching may lead to infection of the open sores. Taking an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can help with the itching but will not clear up the rash.

If you have severe coughing or wheezing, especially with throat swelling, from burning poison ivy, oak, or sumac, you need medical treatment right away. If the rash spreads to your face, mouth, eyes, or genitals, or if you have a fever, headache, extreme redness, pus, or other severe symptoms, see your Urgent Clinics Medical Care healthcare provider. He or she may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Putting a steroid ointment or cream on the affected areas according to the directions on the package.
  • Taking oral corticosteroids such as prednisone.
  • Taking oral antibiotics or using an antibiotic cream if the rash becomes infected.

Because these are all potent drugs, ask your healthcare provider about any possible side effects or interactions with other drugs you may be taking. For example, using a steroid for a long time can have serious side effects. Take steroid medicine exactly as your healthcare provider prescribes. Don’t take more or less of it than prescribed by your provider and don’t take it longer than prescribed. Don’t stop taking a steroid without your provider’s approval. You may have to lower your dosage slowly before stopping it.

How long will the effects last?

The rash usually takes 1 to 3 weeks to heal.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the steps outlined above to treat your rash. In addition, keep the affected skin clean and dry. Keep your fingernails well trimmed and clean. Try not to scratch your skin. Scratching could cause an infection. Scratching and infection can cause scarring.

See your healthcare provider if you develop severe symptoms. See your provider right away or get emergency care if your throat starts to swell or if you have asthma, your wheezing is getting worse, and your regular medicines aren’t helping.

What can I do to help prevent a reaction to poison ivy, sumac, or oak?

  • Know what the plants look like and where they grow so you can avoid them.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you are going to be in an area where these plants grow.
  • You may want to use IvyBlock skin cream, which is specifically made to block poison ivy.
  • As soon as possible, preferably within 5 to 10 minutes of contact with one of these plants, rinse exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water (or just water). Be sure to clean under your fingernails.
  • Wash clothes in hot water and detergent to remove any oil that may be on them. Also clean shoes, tools, camping or fishing gear, or anything else that has been in contact with the plants. Wear gloves when you do the washing and cleaning and then throw the gloves away.
  • Give any outdoor pets a bath if you think they have had contact with the plants. Wear gloves and avoid contact with their fur while bathing

If you find that you’re having trouble concentrating or sleeping as a result of the rash, Urgent Clinics Medical Care is ready to provide treatment to relieve your suffering.  Click here for to find a location near you.














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