If you’ve been outdoors and are experiencing skin irritation, here’s how to tell if it’s poison ivy:
Rashes usually take 4-7 days to develop after exposure to poison ivy and may last 1-2 weeks, although some rashes last up to 5 weeks.
Our dermatology clinic treats many poison ivy patients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, Outer Banks of North Carolina, Eastern Shore of Virginia, and Maryland. Often times its folks who are extremely sensitive to poison ivy. Many people develop progressively stronger reactions with subsequent exposures to poison ivy.
What to do if you’re exposed to poison ivy
If you are exposed to poison ivy, you may be able to prevent the allergic reaction if you wash the exposed skin thoroughly with cold water and soap. Also, wash in hot water and separately from other laundry the clothing that was exposed to the poison ivy.
If you develop a mild-to-moderate rash, topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone may help alleviate symptoms, although prescription-strength from your dermatologist may be necessary.
Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may also help the itch.
Oral steroids, such as prednisone, may be prescribed by your dermatologist for severe cases or those that involve the face, eyes, or genitals.
What is poison ivy?
Poison ivy is a common plant that contains an oil called urushiol. When urushiol oil touches the skin, many people develop an itchy and inflamed rash due to an immune response called contact dermatitis.
The oil can very easily adhere to anything it comes in contact with, including skin, pet fur, and clothing. When it touches your skin, it chemically changes the shape of proteins in your skin cells. In some people, the immune system does not recognize these cells as being parts of the body, and launches an immune attack, treating the skin cells as if they are foreign invaders.
How can I identify poison ivy?
Poison ivy is a vine that grows clusters of three leaves, which has lead to the saying “leaves of three, let it be!” It grows in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, Outer Banks of North Carolina, Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, and almost everywhere in the U.S., except the western coast, deserts, and at high altitude.
Its leaves are usually light or dark green, and turn bright red in the fall. The stems are round, slightly hairy, and do not contain thorns. And, poison ivy contains urushiol year-round. Even dry or dead leaves and stems contain the oil and can cause a rash.
If you have a skin condition in need of evaluation and treatment, please contact our dermatology clinic at (757) 481-1666. We serve Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our dermatologists are here to help you.