Spending time exploring the outdoors, we can sometimes cross paths with new plants or objects that elicit a reaction or irritation in our skin. A big culprit in warmer months, poison ivy, can cause particular irritation in the form of an itchy, blistering, red rash for many people. This is caused by an oil found in the plant called urushiol. When this oil touches your skin, it often causes an itchy, blistering rash. However, most people can safely treat the rash at home. If you know you have come into contact with poison ivy, follow the next steps.
Only treat a rash if you are certain it is from poison ivy. If you have never had a poison ivy rash before, you may need to see your dermatologist to ascertain whether the rash is indeed poison ivy.
- Immediately rinse the area with lukewarm, soapy water. If you are able to quickly wash off oil after contact, you may be able to limit the reaction.
- Wearing gloves, wash anything that may have come into contact with the oil. This includes clothing you were wearing that may have been contaminated as well as surfaces you may have touched with exposed skin. Oil can stick to clothing, household fabrics, and tools or even pet fur and continue to cause rashes and irritations when it comes into contact with skin.
- Refrain from scratching skin or picking at blisters.
- To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water.
- Use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to help alleviate itching.
- Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
- Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching. You should not apply an antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.
While these steps should help to alleviate symptoms, every person is different. If symptoms do not improve in 7-10 days, please contact your dermatologist. In case of an emergency, or difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling, or fever, please seek immediate medical care at an emergency facility or by calling 911. Savannah River Dermatology is located at 575 Furys Ferry Rd in Augusta, Ga. For appointments or other questions, our office can be reached at 706-691-7079.