A: Poison ivy, oak and sumac are all plants that can cause a skin rash when you come into contact with them. The rash usually appears within 48 hours after coming into contact with the urushiol (oil) found on the leaves, stems, flowers, berries and roots of the plants. Poison ivy causes a red and itchy rash that may also include fluid-filled blisters. Clothing, pet fur, sporting gear, gardening tools or other objects that are covered with urushiol can also cause a rash. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and gloves will help protect your skin from coming into contact with the plant.
Without treatment, a poison ivy rash usually lasts from one to three weeks. There are several treatments that can be done at home if the rash is mild and has not spread to the face or over a large part of the body. First, you want to wash the affected skin immediately after coming into contact with poison ivy. Use mild soap and water or a product that dissolves urushiol such as Tecnu Cleanser. If a rash still develops, then oral antihistamines (such as Benadryl) can help reduce the itching. Steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, can also help heal the rash more quickly. It is important that if the rash doesn’t clear or seems to get worse that you see your doctor. If you need help treating your poison ivy, ask your local pharmacist.
Information provided by Lena Mullins, Pharm D., Hy-Vee Drugstore, 1541 S.E. Third St., Suite 100, 986-4527.