Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Posted on 03/09/2018
Poison Ivy

Poison IvyAt Dermatology Consultants, we're proud to offer comprehensive dermatological treatment to patients of all ages throughout the Lynchburg, VA and Forest, VA area. While we often focus on treating skin diseases or improving the look and feel of our patients' skin, there are a number of other skin problems we can address through dermatology—including poison ivy. Here's everything you need to know to prevent, manage, and treat poison ivy!

What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is a shrub or vine-like plant that is—you guessed it—poisonous to humans. This is because poison ivy, like poison oak and poison sumac, produces a clear liquid called urushiol. When urushiol gets on skin, it causes urushiol-induced contact dermatitis: an itchy, irritating, red rash caused by an allergic reaction to urushiol.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

Many people wonder how to identify poison ivy, and while it may seem like a mystery, it isn't too hard to do. One of the best ways to steer clear of poison ivy is to remember an old saying—"Leaves of three, leave them be!" Poison ivy grows leaves in clusters of three, which is a key indicator for identifying poison ivy.

There are many types of poison ivy, which can make identification difficult, but poison ivy leaves are generally longer than they are wide, with a wide base that tapers to a point at the end of the leaf. The leaves may be notched or smooth around the edges and often appear to have an oily sheen. They're usually green in summer and either yellow or red in the winter. If you see red leaves in three-leaf clusters, that's a dead giveaway.

How to Treat Poison Ivy Rash

Even with preparation and vigilance, sometimes poison ivy can sneak up on you. So what do you do if you have a rash from poison ivy?

In most cases, rashes from poison ivy are unpleasant, but minor problems. Most poison ivy rashes can be treated at home with over-the-counter products. However, the faster you address the issue, the better off you'll be.

If you suspect you may have come in contact with poison ivy, remove your clothing when you get home and wash it separately from any other clothes. Take a shower immediately, but—and here's the tricky part—make sure it's a cold shower! Hot water opens up your pores, which will let the urushiol sink deeper into your skin and make the rash worse. Take a cold shower to close the pores, and use soap to wash the oil off of your skin.

If a rash does form, it'll generally takes the form of raised hives, bumps, or blisters, and it will often be intensely itchy or painful. Don't let anyone make contact with your rash, and avoid rubbing anything against it. Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the rash to help soothe it and reduce irritation. 

Should I Go to The Doctor for Poison Ivy?

Generally, home remedies are sufficient to treat poison ivy; but that's not always the case. Urushiol can cause anaphylaxis (a severe, rapid-onset allergic reaction that can be fatal) in some people. If you notice your entire body swelling, eyes swelling shut, or your throat swelling after exposure to poison ivy, call 911 immediately or head straight to the ER.

Even without anaphylaxis, you may want professional dermatology treatment for poison ivy. If the rash is severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life, our dermatologists can prescribe medications to help manage it.

Finally, if you think urushiol has come in contact with an open wound, you should schedule an appointment at our Lynchburg, VA office. Poison ivy can infect the bloodstream, which is a more serious condition that warrants treatment from a professional dermatologist.

Contact Your Lynchburg, VA Dermatologist

Infection with poison ivy is never a pleasant experience, but with careful prevention and treatment, you can limit the impact of a poison ivy rash. Feel free to contact us at our Lynchburg, VA office if you have more questions about poison ivy or want to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. We look forward to hearing from you, and we wish you luck in preventing poison ivy!