Last week we talked about poison ivy and some of the ways that you can be exposed to it. This week, we’ll talk about how to prevent a poison ivy rash, and how to treat it once you have it.
- Avoid the plants – Learn to identify the plants in all seasons. Try to stay on cleared pathways when hiking. If you are camping, check for poison ivy before pitching your tent.
- Wear protective clothing – Wear long sleeves, long pants, and vinyl gloves when needed to protect your skin.
- Use a barrier cream – There are some over-the-counter products that can be applied to the skin to act as a barrier between your skin and the poison ivy oil.
- Remove or kill plants – In your yard, use an herbicide to get rid of the plants or pull them out of the ground, including the roots, while wearing protective clothing of course. Afterward, remove your protective clothing and put it in the washing machine, then immediately wash your hands.
- Wash your skin – Within 30 minutes after exposure, use soap and water to wash thoroughly to get the oil off your skin. Be sure to scrub under your fingernails with a brush as well.
- Wash your pet – If you think your pet has been in poison ivy, use some long rubber gloves to give your pet a good bath with pet shampoo.
- Clean objects that might be contaminated – Wash clothing in the washing machine. Actually put the clothes into the washing machine before you get into the shower. If you pick them up after your shower, you will contaminate your skin again, and will need to take another shower. Don’t let your contaminated clothes touch any surface inside your home, other than the inside of the washing machine! Wash shoes and shoelaces if you have walked in poison ivy. Wash any garden tools or camping gear that may be contaminated. The oil stays potent for years, so if you put something away now without washing it, when you get it out next summer or even 2 or 3 summers from now, it can still cause you to get a poison ivy rash!
- Hydrocortisone 1% cream or ointment, applied up to 4 times a day
- Calamine lotion as needed
- Antihistamines by mouth, such as Benadryl, as needed
- Soak in an oatmeal bath
- Use cool, wet compresses on the area, 15 minutes at a time, multiple times a day.
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor