I spend most of my summer looking down, watching for the ‘dreaded leaves of three’- poison ivy. The one time I did get it…it was lurking underneath my recycling bin, all nestled with my pachysandra! But I’ve digressed!
Poison ivy- what’s to know?
1) It’s not contagious! Patients don’t seem to believe this one, but it’s true. You keep getting new spots every day because of the areas and the amounts of resin that were initially deposited. So most resin-first spots and the largest; least amount of resin-smallest and latest spots.
Speaking of resin- it’s potent stuff. A pinhead amount could cause a rash in 500 people!
2) The most important thing to do is wash. Wash your hands and arms before you use the restroom, get a drink of water, get changed. Use a nice detergent like Dawn or Fels Naptha bar soap (not nice but my mom used it to ‘get the ring out’)…and another digression! How come we don’t hear about ‘ring around the collar’ anymore?! The young readers are asking “what?!”
Washing helps neutralize the resin before it can trigger the intense immune response. You may still get a rash, but it won’t be as bad. Wash your clothes after each session of gardening. Wear gardening gloves…and always wash the minute you walk in the house!
3) With no treatment, poison ivy lasts about two weeks. Sometimes, too short of a course of Prednisone can actually prolong the outbreak.
4) Scratching makes it worse! Our skin has a wonderful memory. The histamine cells like to explode once aggravated. Although sometimes impossible, avoiding the scratching will make it itch less. Cold compresses help immensely!
5) The best over the counter treatments- cool compresses, antihistamines, topical anti itch lotions like Sarna, and topical cortisone. Sometimes patients will need a stronger topical steroid, a cortisone shot, or cortisone pills.
~ Dr. Arthur