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Poison Ivy Dermatitis


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"Poison Ivy" is an allergic response to poison ivy oil, urushiol, which occurs within 24-48 hours after exposure. The rash is very itchy, red, and often blisters form. The poison ivy rash may grow in size and new blisters may appear during the first 2 weeks. Usually, it resolves in 3-4 weeks.

Over 90% of people in the United States are sensitive to urushiol. If you are among the lucky ones who are not, beware, because sensitivity to poison ivy oil may develop over time!

Poison ivy oil can remain on gardening, sporting, or camping equipment for weeks and might cause repeated allergic contact dermatitis reaction unless the objects are washed off with soap and water. Bear in mind that pets that venture outside can carry urushiol on their fur; so bathe your Binky or Fido after they come home from a walk in the woody area.

Some people are extremely sensitive to urushiol and can have an allergic reaction upon inhalation of burning poison ivy oil. They should be very cautious when around a campfire. If they inhale burning urushiol, their get a reaction of the lung's lining causing extreme pain, swelling, and possibly fatal respiratory distress. In addition, ingesting poison ivy may result in death; so if you see leaves of three, let them be!

Here are tips for the treatment of poison ivy dermatitis:

- Wash skin off with water as soon as contact identified

- Use Calamine lotion to prevent itching

- Give Benadryl by mouth to prevent itching

- Oatmeal baths, such as Aveeno available at your local supermarket or homemade (Put 1/2 cup of oatmeal and ½ cup of baking soda into a cotton sock, tie, and throw into the bathtub while the water is running), tend to soothe itching. Beware as that oatmeal makes bathtubs slippery!

- You can use hydrocortisone gel to treat itching

- Contact your health care provider if rash gets worse, involves more than ¼ of the body surface, the face, or genitals, or the rash looks infected (it's hot to touch, painful, swollen, and you see pussy drainage).

Dr. Hillary is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a doctoral degree in health promotion and risk reduction. She works as a pediatric clinician and writes for Plugged in Parents. Plugged In Parents provides up-to-date info on pediatric health, safety and nutrition along with movie reviews, recipes, tech-savvy tips, and a parent's only forum. You can also contact Dr. Hillary for personal questions related to health and nutrition.

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