While poison ivy is most dangerous in spring and summer, you may still get a rash this fall. Poison ivy leaves are among the first one to turn red in the fall and their beautiful colors can fool you. We asked our dermatologist Dr. Tania Phillips to give us a quick refresher on poison ivy rash, treatments and prevention.
What could happen if your skin is exposed to poison ivy?
After being exposed to poison oak, poison ivy or sumac, many people get a very itchy blistering rash. The rash is caused by uroshiol, an oil found in these plants. The rash occurs a few hours or up to a few days after exposure. Patients usually develop itchy red swollen skin, blisters and hives. The rash can be very itchy and can spread by direct contact through clothing or touching the plant, indirect contact such as through pets and gardening tools, and even by airborne contact when plants are burned.
How to treat a rash from poison ivy
If the rash is severe, if there is swelling of your face or eyelids, or if you have trouble breathing or swallowing you should go to the emergency room.
For milder rashes, the affected skin should be rinsed with warm soapy water.
Clothing and any products that have been in contact with the plant should be washed well in hot soapy water.
Cool compresses, calamine lotion, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and over-the-counter antihistamines will help relieve the symptoms.
Try to leave the blisters alone as scratching can cause infections
If your rash is not improving, see a board certified dermatologist.
How to prevent rashes from poison ivy
Try to avoid poison oak poison ivy and poison sumac altogether. Wear protective clothing including long sleeve shirts gloves long pants and boots. A skin cream called an ivy block barrier and containing bentoquatam, can be bought over-the-counter, and will help protect any exposed areas of skin.
While you may associate poison ivy with spring and summer, our dermatologists advise to remain on the lookout for poison ivy this fall. You may be tricked by their beautiful fall color while apple picking this season. Beware!
Our team of renowned physicians and experienced support staff is committed to excellence in medical skin care and cosmetic procedures with a patient-centered focus for women and men in the greater Boston area and beyond.