Avoiding the Itch of Poison Ivy

Doctors are noticing we seem to have a bumper crop of poison ivy this year! They have seen a bumper crop of patients itching and scratching from the leaves of three.

Ed Marstall is among them. He was clearing brush wearing shorts and a t-shirt and started noticing little rashes showing up. A couple days later, his arms and legs were covered with red bumps.

It happens when a resin in the poison ivy plant reacts with your skin. If you get into it, Dr. Jay Kennedy of Cotton-O'Neil ExpressCare says, immediately take action.

"The key thing is not to touch your clothing," he says. "Put on household gloves and launder them in warm water and detergent."

Dr. Kennedy says that means all your clothing - don't forget shoes, gloves and jackets, or you could reinfect yourself.

"The resin can stay active over a year on an article of clothing," he says.

For your skin, wash with either isoproyl alcohol or cold water and liquid soap. If you use a bar, Dr. Kennedy says, the resin gets on the soap and spreads it.

Also be aware that you can pick up the poison ivy resin from your pets, so bathe them if they've been running through the brush.

Dr. Kennedy says it can take up to three weeks for the blisters to go away. Don't scratch them or it could break the skin and cause infection. He says you can treat them over the counter with Benadryl and cortisone cream.

"You should see a doctor if you have involvement with the eyes, the mouth, the genitalia or if there's involvement of thirty-percent of the body," Dr. Kennedy says.

Ed hopes to find relief with prescription medicines - and he's learned his lesson. He says it'll be long sleeves and long pants next time he's busy with the brush!

Dr. Kennedy also says be cautious if someone's burning brush or lawn debris. He says poison ivy smoke can cause an irritation of the lungs that could put you in the hospital.

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