Poison Ivy: What You Need to Know

By: Hannah Ropp   July 5, 2017
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Pennsylvania is home to some beautiful hiking trails, but unfortunately it’s also home to poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. Though the plants aren’t really poisonous, they can cause an itchy and blistering rash upon contact with your skin. 

According to Coordinated Health Primary Care Physician Lindsay Goffredo-Hughes, DO, the rash people have to plants like poison ivy is actually considered allergic reaction.”The rash you get from poison ivy is caused by an oil in the plant called urushiol. The most common way people get the rash is from direct contact with a plant, but you can also get it from something else that has been contaminated by the oil like a pet’s fur, clothing or other surfaces,”

Dr. Goffredo-Hughes says that the reaction to poison ivy, oak or sumac generally shows up within 24 to 72 hours and can last up to three weeks. The rash consists of patches of red, raised blisters. The good news about these rashes is that in most cases the treatment is fairly simple. “The best thing to do is keep the rash cool and dry. You can use calamine lotion, diphenhydramine or hydrocortisone to control the itching. If the rash is near your eyes, widespread over your body or not getting better with over-the-counter treatment, see your doctor,” she says. 

Dr. Goffredo-Hughes also advises against itching the rash as it could cause permanent scarring or an infection. 

 

If you are going to be outside hiking or think that you will be near poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac check out our tips on how to stay safe!

  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • If you are doing yard work around poison plants, keep the shoes you wear around the plants outside.
  • Know what the plants look like. Poison ivy is shiny and has three leaves. One on each side and the other in the center. Poison oak looks similar, but the leaves are larger and more rounded. There may be groups of three, five or seven. Poison sumac grows in clusters of seven to 13 leaves. 
  • Don’t burn poison ivy, oak or sumac. There will be particles of urushiol in the smoke that can aggravate your eyes, nose, respiratory tract and land on your skin. 

 

 

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