What's it like: Poison ivy rash itches for relief

If you're allergic and come into contact with poison ivy, you might develop a skin rash within a few hours to two days. Generally, if you're able to quickly tend to the affected area and wash it, the rash won't spread.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: July 21, 2013

What is poison ivy?

Poison ivy is a three-leafed plant that grows throughout Oklahoma. Urushiol, a chemical found in the sap of poison ivy, causes the itchy rash that poison ivy is known for. About 85 percent of people will develop a rash after coming into contact with urushiol.

People who are allergic might develop a rash if they come into contact with the sap from the plant. Poison ivy sap, or oil, is generally sticky and gets stuck to clothing, animal fur and gardening tools. The oil might remain on any surface, including dead plants, and cause problems for up to five years.

How is it treated?

If you're allergic and come into contact with the plant's oils, you might develop a skin rash within a few hours to two days. You'll want to wash the affected area as soon as possible with soap and water. Generally, if you're able to quickly tend to the affected area and wash it, the rash won't spread.

Try not to scratch it, and it's important to keep it clean and dry. You don't want to pop the blisters or cover the rash. If you have washed it well with soap and water, it generally won't spread. You'll want to let it air dry.

Products that contain solvents such as mineral oil also might help to remove urushiol from your skin. Your doctor might also recommend using hydrocortisone creams, calamine lotion, antihistamine tablets or oatmeal baths. Be careful, though, if you've been scratching, because the topical cream medicine can get into your bloodstream.

The rash should clear up on its own after you've cleaned it. However, if you're severely allergic, you might need to see your doctor and get some steroids or other medicine.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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