Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Poison Ivy Rash

Poison ivy rash is caused by a clear, oily resin chemical in the sap of the poison ivy plant called urushiol. This chemical is found in the roots, leaves, stems of the poison ivy and poison oak. 

Additionally, majority of the people who come in contact with these plants normally delevop a rash that itches really badly, so I strongly advise persons to avoid contact. Exposure to the smoke of the plant while it is being burnt is even more dangerous as it can affect the lungs. 

Some cases of poison ivy rash may not require any form of medicinal treatment. However, there are some severe cases and the rash spreads widely, especially on your face or genital area. Your doctor may suggest taking pills (Prednisone) for a couple weeks.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy Rash includes:
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
The appearance of the rash can look like a straight line mainly because of how contact with plant was made (If it brushes the skin). The rash spreads out more if contact was made from a piece of clothing, material or pet who’s fur or body has been in contact with that plant’s urushiol. The rash recation usually develops 12 to 48 hours after exposure and typically lasts two or more weeks. 
How severe the rash becomes all depends on the amount of urushiol that comes in contact with your skin. The more urushiol on the skin the sooner the rash develops. The oil can be transferred to other parts of the body with your fingers. Additionally, your skin must come in direct contact with the plant's oil to be affected. Blister fluid doesn't spread the rash.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • The reaction is severe or widespread
  • The rash affects your face or genitals
  • Blisters are oozing pus
  • You develop a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C)
  • The rash doesn't get better within a few weeks
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Is Poison Ivy Contagious

This question is usually asked by most people. Well the answer is not as obvious as you might believe. From a medical point of view, poison ivy is not contagious, the  fluid from the blister does not contain urushiol and therefore won’t spread the rash. Additionally, poison ivy cannot be transferred from another person unless contact was made with the urushiol that’s still on the person or the person’s clothing. From, a realistic point of view  poison ivy is contagious in the sense that if you touch someone who just came in contact with the plant and still has the Urushiol on them there is a possibility that you can get a rash.

To avoid getting a poison ivy rash, always make sure you have your skin covered when in a wooded setting and always take off clothing and wash up directly after your outing.

Causes of Poison Ivy Rash 

Poison ivy rash is caused by a clear, oily resin chemical in the sap of the poison ivy plant called urushiol. This chemical is found in the roots, leaves, stems of the poison ivy and poison oak. Urushiol is very sticky, and it can attach to your skin, equipment, tool, pet’s fur or clothing very easily. Poison Ivy reaction can be given from:

Direct contact: - directly touching the leaves, root, stem or even the berries of the plant can give you a reaction.   
Inhaling smoke from burning plants. Smoke from burning poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak also contains the oil which can irritate your lungs and the passage to your nostril (nasal passages).

Contact with contaminated objects. Walking among poison ivy, and then later you touch your clothes, shoes, or other objects you may get some urushiol on your hands, this can be easily transferred to your face or other body parts by touching or rubbing. If the contaminated object isn't cleaned, the urushiol on it can still cause a skin reaction years later.

Risk factors of Poison

There are persons who are extremely sensitive to the oil that causes poison ivy rash; this usually runs in their family traits.
Some outdoor occupations and outdoor hobbies can definitely increase the risk of getting poison ivy rash.  I strongly advise people in the following occupation to wear the correct protect  gears to reduce the risk:

  •   Farmers
  •   Foresters
  •   Landscapers
  •   Gardeners
  •   Firefighters
  •  Construction workers 
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Poison Ivy Treatment

Poison ivy rash usually goes away within a few weeks and treatment can be done personally at home. However, if you experience any of the following, please see your doctor immediately:
  • If  large portions of your body are covered by the rash and blisters
  • If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • If you are experiencing constant itching over a long period of time
  • If you experience swelling, especially on the lid of your eyes
  • If the rash develops in pubic area or on your face.

Treating the rash at home

Steps recommended by dermatologists when treating the rash at home:
  • If you came in contact with the poison ivy plant, rinse the urushiol oil of your skin with warm water immediately.
  • It is very important to remove and wash the clothes you were wearing during the time of contact with the poison ivy plant. The urushiol oil can also stick to clothing and any contact made may cause another rash to develop.   
  • Make sure you wash everything that has the urushiol oil on its surface: such as pet fur, tools and other objects etc.

When treating this rash, dermatologist’s recommend that you:

  • Please do not use any antihistamine on your skin as this can cause the rash and itching to get worst. 
  • Do not use a hydrocortisone cream or lotion. These relieve only very mild cases. 

How long does the rash from poison ivy last?

The rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks. During this time, your skin can itch.

How to stop the itching?

While the skin is healing itching may occur, it is advised not to scratch because scratching can cause infection.

Dermatologists recommend the following home remedies to ease the itch: 

  • Oatmeal bath- Draw a warm bath in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, as it helps to smooth and comfort itchy, scratchy, and dry skin. Colloidal oatmeal can be bought at your local drug store. 
  • Calamine lotion: This is a medicine traditionally used to relieve itching and soothe minor skin irritations. Apply this to skin that itches.
  • Cool compresses: You can make a cool compress by running a clean washcloth under cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
  • Baking soda bath: Prepare a warm bath and add 1 cup of baking soda. Baking soda is one of the most common home remedy for itchy skin that treats all types of itches. It has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a natural acid neutralizer.
  • Antihistamine pills: Antihistamine pills are used to relieve the symptoms of the rash from poison ivy, but you should not apply an antihistamine to your skin. If you apply antihistamine to your skin it may cause the rash and the itch to get worst. 
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  • Video- How to Treat Poison Ivy 

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