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Q: What is contact dermatitis?

Posted July 16, 2014 in Advice Column, Grimes

A: Now that summer is in full swing, we are getting out to enjoy the outdoors. As a result, there is an increased exposure to common plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. These plants are very common to our local area. They typically appear as simple weeds growing from one half to two feet tall or as simple vines growing up along trees or other structures.

The symptoms of contact dermatitis usually develop within a couple of days following the direct exposure to the plant. The area which comes in direct contact with the plant will become red and swollen, followed by the development of small blisters. These will typically be arranged in a linear distribution on the exposed areas. There will typically be moderate to severe itching associated with the rash. Most cases of contact dermatitis can be managed with simple, over-the-counter treatments such as hydrocortisone, calamine and oral Benadryl. The symptoms may last for as long as two to three weeks. In severe cases, such as when there are large areas of the body involved or when it involves the face or genital areas, it may require treatment with a steroid shot followed by oral steroids. It is very important to wash the clothing or other items which may have come in contact with the plants.

Information provided by Carin A. Bejarno, A.R.N.P., UnityPoint Grimes, 101 S.E. Destination Drive, 986-4524.

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