Treating Poison Ivy

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Poison Ivy


Living in the Ozarks means you’re constantly surrounded by plants and shrubs. Identifying poison ivy can be difficult, but the rash that it can leave you with is unmistakable.

It’s important to understand what actually causes a poison ivy rash. All parts of the plant carry an oil called urushiol (oo-ROO-shee-awl), and it is this oil that is absorbed into your skin if it is left untreated for 12 hours or more.

Limiting the Spread of the Rash

If you’re not sure that the urushiol is limited to only your hands and arms, it’s best to take a warm, steamy shower to wash off as much oil as possible. A special soap, Zanfel, is formulated to remove urushiol. If you do not have Zanfel available, a grease cutting detergent, such as Dawn dish soap, can help cut through the oily urushiol. Throw all of your clothes in the washing machine so they don’t spread the oil.

Remember what fixtures you’ve touched, like doorknobs and faucets, so you can go back and wash them later. The urushiol sticks to virtually any surface, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Treating the Rash

The rash will last from a week to a week and a half after first contact. During that time, short, warm baths and showers should ease the pain from the rash. Other effective treatments include calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, cold compresses, and allergy pills.

It’s commonly believed that the rash can spread to other people even after the oil is gone, but that’s not true. Once the urushiol is gone, the rash cannot spread itself.

Be careful not to scratch at the rash no matter how much it itches. Opening up blisters will cause your skin to become infected, making the rash last longer and feel even more painful.

With proper care and the pain soothing treatments listed above, the rash should disappear in 7-10 days. If the rash remains after that time, you should see a doctor. You may have an undiagnosed allergy or skin condition that is making the rash worse.

Check out your Family Pharmacy for a full arsenal of rash-fighting tools. We’re here to help you get through even the worst attack of poison ivy.

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