A: The poison ivy plant contains an oil called urushiol. This oil “bonds” to skin when it comes in contact with it. If you are allergic to urushiol and you get it on your skin, you’ll develop an itchy, red rash.
A poison ivy rash will usually begin to appear in one to two days. The affected area will get red and swollen. A day or so later, small blisters will begin to form and the rash will become very itchy. During this time, it’s important to try to keep from scratching the blisters.
If you think that you’ve come in contact with poison ivy, you need to wash the area with plain cool water as soon as possible. This may help to get some of the oil off your skin. Products that contain solvents such as mineral oil (brand names: Technu, Zanfel) also may help to remove urushiol from your skin. Because urushiol can remain active for a long time, be sure to wash your clothes, shoes, tools or anything else that may have touched the plant (like camping, sporting, fishing or hunting gear).
Once a rash starts to develop, there are several over-the-counter medications you can use, including hydrocortisone creams (brand name: Cortizone-10), calamine lotion, antihistamine tablets (one brand name: Benadryl) and oatmeal baths. You should call your doctor if you have fever more than 100 degrees, the rash covers large areas of your body.
Information provided Dr. Doug Layton, D.O., Family Physicians at Prairie Trail, 2515 S.W. State St., 964-6999.