For the second time in about 5 years, my dog has given me poison ivy. Luckily, this time I am NOT pregnant but I am nursing so my options for treatment are limited. I decided to do some research for myself, but I think that the general public can definitely benefit from some knowledge on the topic, seeing as how it’s in many a backyard around here.
The first and most important thing you need to know is that the toxin Urushiole is what causes the allergic reaction and you do not have to come into contact with the actual plant to be exposed. The oil from the plant that contains Urushiole can cling to clothing or animal fur and rub off. This is how I keep getting it. My dog goes out and finds it somewhere (even though we continually remove it from our yard) and then rubs up against me. It sounds mean, but I actually avoid touching my dog as much as possible because of this, and when I do I am sure to wash my hands thoroughly. But as I have come to understand, washing with soap is not the first thing to do when you are exposed.
Once you come into contact with the plant or you think you have been exposed, you must wipe the area with rubbing alcohol, then rinse the area with cool water and then wash with soap and water. The reason for this is that soap will not remove the oil and can actually spread it further. The rubbing alcohol strips the oil and it comes off when you rinse with cold water.
Symptoms and Appearance
The very first symptom of this allergic reaction is an itching sensation. It creeps up on you. At first it itches a little, then a lot and then you notice what look like hives. As the rash progresses it becomes raised and eventually blistery. It will weep and crust over.
Itching the rash does not spread it. Coming contact with the rash or the fluid come out of it will not spread it. The ONLY way to spread poison ivy is to spread the Urushiole (in extreme and rare cases, it can be septic which would result in a full body rash). The are with the most exposure will show a rash first and the ones that had less exposure will pop up in the days following. It may appear that the rash is spreading, but it is not.
For example, my first spots showed up on my arms and wrists where I had rubbed against the dog. Then they spread up my arms and around my knees because I then sat on the deck and rolled up my pants and shirt sleeves to get some sun. Then it spread to my chest and on my thighs. Hopefully I am now in the end stages – I can see that the initial rash is beginning to dry out and itch less.
The reaction can last up to 3 weeks without treatment. Prescription Steroids are sometimes necessary.
There are many products on the market for treating Poison Ivy. My personal experience has been with Burt’s Bees, Zanfel, Benedryl and Aveeno Anti-itch Concentrated Lotion. Benadryl is safe if you are pregnant or nursing, but I choose not to take it because I sleep so soundly. While that would be wonderful, I can’t risk not hearing the baby or the older children if they need me during the night. I am currently using Burt’s Bees and the Aveeno. Zanfel would have been useful if I had known I was exposed earlier.
Atarax (hydroxyzine, a prescription oral antihistamine)
Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal
Aveeno 1% Hydrocortizone Anti-Itch Cream (OTC topical steroid)
Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel
Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion
Cortizone 10 (OTC topical steroid)
Cutivate cream 0.05% (prescription topical steroid)
Domeboro Astringent Solution Powder Packets
Gold Bond Maximum Strength Medicated Anti-Itch Cream
Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel with Soothing Aloe Vera
Locoid cream 0.1% (prescription topical steroid)
Triamcinolone acetonide 0.1% (prescription topical steroid)
Burts’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap
Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit
Ivarest Medicated Cream
Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub
Zanfel Wash For Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac
I am very sensative to Posion Ivy and have become more so as I get older. It is common to experience worse reactions with multiple exposures.
To prevent exposure, it is recommended that you wear long sleeves, long pants and boots when you are in areas where the plant is likely to grow (wooded areas, high grass, around trees and bushes, etc…)
It is also important to recognize what Posion Ivy and similar plants look like. As far as Poison Ivy is concerned, the saying “Leaves of three, let it be” is accurate.
I hope that is this helpful to everyone venturing outdoors this summer (or have naughty pets…). Please remember that I am not a medical professional and that any questions or concerns you may have should be directed to your doctor. This information is based on my own experience and research.
Jen is a “Mom Blogger” in the sense that she writes about her life which largely revolves around being a mother. You can expect to hear about family life and raising young kids, recipes and menu planning, home organization, crafts, products that she loves and local, family friendly events and locations. You can hear more from Jen on her personal blog, WorthingtonLower.com