Poison Ivy: It’s that Time of Year in Charleston!

By Health First on February 2, 2012 in Charleston, Poison Ivy

It is hard to believe, but it is truly that time of year again in Charleston, when we at Health First start witnessing Poison Ivy cases at our 3 medical centers. Some of these cases are quite severe. Here is what you need to know about Poison Ivy and certain steps you can take:

Poison ivy rash forms as a reaction to the oil from the plant, found mostly in the leaves!

Touching the leaves is the most common cause of the itchy rash.  That is why the most common rash we witness is one in the form of a linear streak, where the leaf edge ran across an arm, leg, or hand.  Health First has seen poison ivy cases form from the oil being present in smoke when individuals or groups burn the plant (these “Poison Ivy Smoke” cases usually appear like sunburn covering all the smoke exposed skin, and can even involve breathing difficulty). 

Knowing that the problem comes from the oil, what can you do?

  • The first step of prevention and first aid requires that you remove the oil rapidly after exposure
    • Use Oil removing soaps (dawn soaps are a good example)
    • Consider Acetone (nail polish remover) as it works well also
    • Use “poison ivy first aid sprays” which are reported to work well
    • Wear protective clothing if you suspect an exposure might occur
      • Long pants, long sleeve shirts, and gloves will help you avoid exposure
      • Once the oil is removed, steroid creams can be helpful and may prevent a trip to the doctor, if administered early and aggressively!
        • If your case is fairly severe, you can consider covering the cream with plastic wrap to increase the potency and the results
        • Do not take risks- if there are any reasons to seek medical advice in person, do so and abandon this article. This is especially true if you have skin breaks, other symptoms, or a history of severe reactions.  Come to Health Firstimmediately! Early treatment works best- don’t “wait and see”.
        • Topical antihistamine creams (Diphenhydramine-Benadryl as an example) are not very effective. Oral antihistamines are a bit stronger, but with more side effects, and are not very successful

What does Health First do for poison Ivy?

The cases we see deserve potent and effective treatment.  This means, the cases we see usually require much stronger treatment than the above “over-the-counter remedies” can provide. The results are faster relief and shorter duration of symptoms!  Here are some examples of more potent treatments:

  • High to Moderate potency steroid creams and ointments with plastic wrap occlusive dressings work wonders
  • A blast of oral prednisone (high dose, short duration) really helps by day two. Sometimes, the course has to be prolonged out to 7-14 days, but often we prevent that by aggressive treatment
  • An injection of Decadron or Depomedrol often provides amazing relief
  • We will sometimes add a strong (even sedating) antihistamine to help the itch and improve sleep
  • In many cases, We add Tagamet, a stomach pill. This pill blocks histamine (itch ) and adds some stomach protection (prednisone can cause some rare stomach problems, especially in longer duration regiments than the ones we use)

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a severe case of poison ivy, then come by one of Health First’s 3 locations as soon as possible.  We will get you treated faster than you can say “In. Out. Better.”  We usually get you started in less than 4 minutes  (guaranteed less than 30 minutes)!