The scientific name of poison ivy is Toxicodendron radicans. It is a poisonous flowering plant native to North American and Asian regions. The plant is famous for its itching, irritating and sometimes hurting rash caused when the plant it touched.
The causative agent of the rash is Urushiol, a component in the sap of the plant. It is thought that this component is not a defensive measure by the plant rather urushiol helps that plant to retain water in hostile conditions. The plant is present in a variety of forms and it is actually true ivy. Even though the ivy plant is eaten by many animals and its seeds are consumed by birds, it is thought of as an unwelcome plant by the human beings.
What causes the rash?
Urushiol is the oil present in these plants that when touches the skin causes rash, itching and sometimes painful blisters.
Emergency symptoms of Ivy poisoning:
Although ivy poisoning can be managed very safely at home, if however you face any of the following symptoms, it would be wise to go to a doctor:
- If you feel trouble in breathing or swallowing.
- If you have a rash that covers most parts of the body.
- If you feel you have many rashes or blister.
- If you feel that your body is swelling, for instance your eyelids could swell shut.
- If you see that the rash is spreading on your face or anywhere on the genitals.
- You feel an itch, but there is nothing that relieves that itch.
If you don’t have any of the above symptoms and you feel that the rash is not very extensive and you are sure that the rash is due to poison ivy, it can easily be treated at home.
Recommendations to get rid of Poison ivy:
Following are the steps need to be taken to get rid of poison ivy.
1. Immediate rinsing of the skin with warm water:
Immediately after coming in contact with the poison ivy, if you wash your skin thoroughly with water and also apply some soap over it, you can wipe some of the oil off your skin. Not washing the oil of may lead to contact with other persons and the poisoning may spread from one person to another and the oil while being on your body can propagate the rash on to other parts of your own body as well.
2. Give your clothing a thorough wash:
It is wise to wash the clothing after coming in contact with the poison. The oil can get stuck in the clothing and if not washed it can cause further rashes and present further problems to your skin.
3. Anything that comes in contact with the poison needs a wash:
In addition to washing your clothing, it is necessary that you also rinse everything that could have come in contact with the poison. Objects like your gardening tools, your golf clubs, leashes and interestingly your pet’s fur as well. It is very important that you wash your pet’s fur as we get in close contact with them and they can be very potential carriers of the poison. So try washing all your stuff that repeatedly comes in contact with plants with warm soapy water.
4. Scratching a rash is a bad idea:
Just like with any other rash, scratching your poison ivy rash is a bad idea. It can lead to skin lacerations and that can further progress to infections on your skin, thus worsening the problem.
5. Leave those blisters alone:
Poison ivy can lead to painful blistering. It is right to leave the blisters as they are. Avoid removing the fragile skin over the blisters as removing it can worsen the raw wound underneath and cause you to have an infection.
6. Take short baths with lukewarm water:
It is advised to take short repeated baths with lukewarm water when suffering from the rash. Ideally taking baths with an oatmeal preparation can help and the preparation is easily available at any drug store. In addition when you draw a bath, mixing some baking soda in water and then taking cool showers will also soothe the skin.
7. Apply calamine lotion or steroid cream:
It is recommended that calamine lotion be applied to the skin that itches. In case of a mild rash, applying hydrocortisone cream will also be effective.
8. Cold compresses to the itchy skin:
Take a clean wash cloth, dip it in water and jolt it a little so that it doesn’t drip. Apply this wet cloth onto the itchy rash skin so that it provides a cool and soothing effect.
9. Antihistamine pills are an option:
Antihistamine pills can reduce the itching. Caution has to be taken however in applying an antihistamine cream to the rash as it can cause the rash and itch to worsen. In general an antihistamine cream should be avoided.
In case the rash does not improve over a period of ten days or there is a suspicion that the rash has gotten infected, consulting a doctor preferably a dermatologist would be the right option. A dermatologist can efficiently treat the rash and alleviate the associate itch and the pain.
How to prevent ivy poisoning:
Ivy poisoning can be prevented in two ways.
1) Avoid the exposure to this poisonous plant.
2) Protect and cover your skin when near these plants.
The above mentioned maneuvers are all recommended and can effectively help you get rid of the rash of poison ivy.