Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Poison Ivy Symptoms

CE: Leaves of three, let them be, so the saying goes about poison ivy. Today we are going to talk about poison ivy and its treatment. What causes some people to get such a strong reaction to this plant?

AA: The leaves contain an oil called urushiol. This oil causes an allergic reaction in the majority of people.

CE: So some people aren’t bothered by it?

AA: That is correct. While most people are allergic to poison ivy, some individuals are not.

CE: After being exposed, how long does it take to have a reaction?

AA: It can vary between a few hours and a couple weeks for the skin to become red and itchy and for blisters to appear.

CE: How long does the rash last?

AA: It can last for as long as several weeks. Your healthcare provider may recommend oatmeal baths or calamine lotion to help you stay comfortable. He or she may also recommend antihistamines or steroids to help with the itching and redness.

CE: Is poison ivy contagious?

AA: The rash itself is not contagious between people; however, the oil that causes the reaction can be transferred between people. It can also be transferred from things too. Examples include clothing that has been exposed or a pet that has been running through the woods.

CE: Any tips on avoiding exposure?

AA: Try to wear long pants and sleeves if you are potentially going to be in an area where poison ivy may be. You can even be exposed from the air if poison ivy is being burned to clear brush. Try to shower soon after coming inside and wash your hands before using the bathroom. Washing with soap and cool water immediately after exposure may help prevent a reaction.

CE: Any other poison ivy facts that viewers may find interesting?

AA: The same oil that causes the allergic reaction in many people is also present in the skin of mango fruit. If you have a history of reactions to poison ivy, you may want to be cautious of handling mangoes.

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