With summer just around the corner, and the weather getting warmer, many of us will be spending more and more time outside. Perhaps you’ll find yourself taking a hike or playing with the dogs outside. If you are like many people, you’ll be watching out for poison ivy! This stuff can be nasty and if your skin is sensitive, you can find yourself with at rash lasting days or ever weeks.
So what exactly is poison ivy and what causes the rash?
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac grow in wooded or marshy areas throughout North America. Contrary to their name, the plants aren’t really poisonous. They all do have a sticky, long-lasting oil called urushiol that causes an itchy, blistering rash after it touches your skin. Even slight contact, like brushing up against the leaves, can leave the oil behind. Poison ivy and poison oak grow as vines or shrubs. Poison sumac is a shrub or tree.
How to stay safe?
One way to keep yourself safe is to watch out for the plants and try to avoid them. If you are hiking or not too sure how to identify the plants, it might be a good idea to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts. Just make sure when you get back home that you are careful in removing the clothes incase there is oil from the plants on them.
You can also try a lotion that has bentoquatam. It acts as a barrier between urushiol and your skin. It would be a good idea to wash your hands, arms and any other area that you think may have come in contact with the plant oil as soon as possible. Use warm water and soap if possible. If water and soap is not available, you can also use alcohol hand wipes.
What if I get the rash?
If unfortunately if a rash appears, keep it dry, clean, and cool. Calamine lotion, diphenhydramine, or hydrocortisone can help keep the itching under control. Cool compresses or baths with baking soda or oatmeal can soothe the rash as well. If you can help it, please don’t scratch! It won’t spread the rash, but can cause scars or infection. Your doctor may suggest other treatments for your symptoms.