Treat Poison Ivy and Prevent Skin Infection

Poison ivy is an itchy, annoying skin condition that could turn into something much worse if you scratch and break the skin. There are different types of poison ivy throughout the world and also in the family is sumac and oak. You can find these plants around the base of trees and bushes and they can also hide in brush and weeds. Many people do not realize they have gotten into poison ivy or the others until they get the telltale rash.

This rash is caused when your skin comes into contact with the sap found in the branches and leaves. The toxic substance in the sap is called toxicodendrol and if you are allergic to this sap, you are likely to break out in the rash anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days after contact. Only in the areas where the skin touched the sap will you break out. The resulting rash is a type of dermatitis that becomes red and raised and may also blister.

Contrary to popular belief, the rupturing blister fluid does not spread the rash to other areas of the body. In actuality, you likely have the sap somewhere else maybe clothing or something you rubbed against that still has the resin from the poison ivy. Some of the things that may continue to have traces of the poison ivy sap are pet fur, shoelaces, gardening equipment and even furniture.

In order not to re-infect yourself with the poison ivy, you have to retrace your steps to determine what exactly you touched so that the sap can be eliminated. The thing about the resin from poison ivy as well as the poison sumac and poison oak is that it can stay active months later. Therefore it is important to clean everything that it has made contact with. Washing items with detergent in the washing machine is effective for clothing, sheets and other linen items. For surfaces like gardening tools, you may have to wash them down with soap. Pets that have rolled in it will need a bath.

Some people who realize that they got into poison ivy or one of its relatives have a slight chance of avoiding the rash altogether is they wash with soap and water immediately. This does not always work but there is a chance that even if you do get the rash, it will be much less severe. Typically, once you get the rash, it will last anywhere from one week to a month, depending on the severity of the condition. The most important part of any poison ivy treatment is to reduce the itch because if you scratch and break the skin, you could be courting a bacterial infection and then the recovery time is a whole lot longer.

There are different types of antihistamines that will help you reduce the itch and swelling from the rash. The oral medications work best but you should be careful as some do cause drowsiness. Because the rash may be oozing, you will want to apply some lotion like a calamine lotion which serves to not only soothe the itching but also dry up the weeping rash.

For particularly bad cases, there are anesthetics you can apply right on the rash to numb the itch temporarily but these require constant reapplication. Soaking in a warm tub filled with oatmeal or baking soda bath can also help soothe the itch drastically. Hydrocortisone cream is the best bet for reducing the swelling and inflammation.