The Bristol Press – HEALTHY LIVING: Hotter climate brings poison egg season
When the warmer weather begins, the garden also works and this brush is often used to mix poison ivy. With 50 to 75 percent of the US population allergic to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, this is a common problem that many of us will face at least once in our lives. But hopefully with a better understanding of this common allergen, you will be better able to control it.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are found in the United States with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. They come from the Anacardiaceae plant family and contain “oleoresin urushiol” oil. This oil, found in the leaves, stems, roots, and fruits of these plants, often triggers an allergic reaction. When this oil comes in contact with the skin, it easily penetrates the upper layers of the skin, causing reactions and a subsequent rash. It can also contaminate clothing, tools, pet fur, and other items that come in contact with the oil, allowing for possible re-exposure. Rash usually begins to develop between 4 hours and 8 days after exposure, and symptoms can worsen over a period of 14 days. Most cases resolve naturally within one to three weeks, but can result in many itchy sleepless nights.
Avoidance is the best way to prevent poison ivy, but it’s not always practical. If you work with or have the potential to encounter poison ivy, wearing protective clothing can help. Heavy duty vinyl or leather gloves work best as the oil can often penetrate rubber or latex based gloves. Long sleeves, pants, eye protection, masking and other measures can also limit possible contamination. However, it is important to carefully remove gloves and clothing immediately upon completion and to clean them with a warm, damp washcloth and dish soap before re-use.
For Your Skin: The same combination of dish soap and warm water on a washcloth works well. In fact, it has been found to be as effective as commercially made poison ivy cleansers. Avoid wiping back and forth, working in one direction from head to toe to avoid scrubbing oils further into the skin. After all, timing is important. Over time, oil becomes difficult to remove. In fact, after 10 minutes on the skin, approximately 50% of the oil can be removed successfully, and after an hour this number is close to zero. Therefore, wash the skin contaminated with poison ivy as soon as possible. The more oil that can be removed, the more likely you are to limit or avoid rashes.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are, sometimes it seems like we are still catching poison ivy. But even then, there are various over-the-counter and prescription treatments that can help reduce the severity of symptoms and speed recovery. In mild cases, calming therapies such as oatmeal baths, cool, damp compresses, and hydrocortisone cream can help temporarily. For “crying” blisters, calamine lotion or aluminum acetate bandages (Burow’s solution) can help dry the lesions and soothe the skin. Orally, the antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) aren’t usually helpful in controlling itching, but the calming properties can help with sleep if needed. As with any medication, carefully follow the directions and avoid using steroid creams such as hydrocortisone on the face, groin, and body folds.
In moderate to severe cases, we often prescribe highly effective topical corticosteroid creams, oral corticosteroids, or a corticosteroid injection to control symptoms. These therapies help limit the itchiness and decrease the progression of the rash, allowing for a faster overall recovery. Additionally, our Bristol Health Med-Help Urgent Care providers can help tailor treatment to your specific needs for the safest and most effective management possible. Try to seek treatment as early as possible as the response to treatment is best in the early stages of the rash. Ultimately, there are many different ways to deal with your poison ivy. Hopefully, when you understand this common allergen a little better, you can gain the upper hand to avoid it in the future.
Daniel Tuohey, PA-C, is the medical assistant at Bristol Health’s Med-Help Urgent Care at 539 Farmington Ave, Bristol. Med-Help is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Med-Help is open 365 days a year including public holidays. For more information, please call 860-314-6046.
Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Tuesday May 25th 2021 8:54 AM Updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 8:57 AM.