Being outside in the summer brings the risk of poison ivy. There are three plants you need to watch out for: poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Most have 3 leaves and appear oily or waxy. Wearing long pants or long sleeves in wooded areas can help prevent exposure. The plant oil, urushiol, is what causes the rash. If you know you have been exposed, it is best to remove the oil by showering and washing your clothes. This can help prevent rash if you remove the oil before it penetrates the skin. Cleaning under the fingernails can be very important. If exposed, fingernails can spread the rash by scratching; however, the rash itself is not contagious. If the rash does develop, there is no "cure," only the symptoms can be treated. Itching is the most common complaint of poison ivy. Oral diphenhydramine (also known as Benedryl®) can help the itching. Also topical hydrocortisone or topical diphenhydramine can help itching to subside. Scratching the rash can cause a secondary infection, which may require a dose of antibiotics from your physician. It is important to also note that if you think you have gotten poison ivy in your eye, or if you have a rash larger than 10% of your body, you need to see your physician for prescription options.
Kelli Noel, PharmD Candidate
Amy Tichenor, PharmD