Poison ivy is a plant that can cause a skin rash that is medically known as “allergic contact dermatitis.” Most people refer to both the plant and skin rash as poison ivy. It is the oil found in the plant that causes allergic reactions to many people. The rash is extremely itchy and will blister within 12-72 hours after contact has been made with the plant. Not everyone is allergic to poison ivy, but those who are can suffer for days or weeks from the symptoms produced by contact with the plant.
Walking through the woods in the late spring to late fall in shorts and short sleeves may seem like a great idea. The body keeps cool from the heat of the day, and you are surrounded by shade on all sides. However, if that shade is made up of plants that cause extreme reactions, it may not seem like a great idea after the fact. Many people swear that they can simply look at poison ivy and catch its rash, while others can actually rub up against it and never break out at all. Most people who do come down with the poison ivy rash see the rash go away relatively quickly, usually within a week. However, people with serious reactions often need medical intervention to take care of serious symptoms.
Swelling is a sign of a serious reaction to poison ivy. So is the rash spreading. Poison ivy is not typically contagious and does not typically spread. However, for people who are extremely allergic to poison ivy, scratching the rash and touching another part of the body can immediately spread the rash. For these sufferers, steroid injections are often necessary to control the rash to keep it from spreading. Prescription strength cortisone creams are also necessary to relieve the itching so that the skin can heal.
Prevention is the best method when it comes to poison ivy. Hiking through the woods, or through your own back yard or neighborhood, requires proper attire. Long pants, long sleeves, and an awareness of what the plant looks like can go a long way in preventing a poison ivy rash.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Jodi E. Ganz, Olansky Dermatology Associates
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