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Poison Ivy - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Poison ivy is a very common plant that can cause a skin rash called allergic contact dermatitis. Poison ivy is subject to frequent taxonomic reclassification and confusion; it is currently divided into eastern and western species in the Toxicodendron genus. It is a woody vine that is well known for its ability to produce urushiol, a skin irritant that causes an itching rash for most people, technically known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. Poison Ivy did not initially catch on as a character, and was not heard of again until the rise of feminism brought the need for a greater number of more independent female villains in the series. Although some people truly are immune to poison ivy, most people develop a rash after coming into contact with poison ivy or the similar plants, poison sumac and poison oak. The rash is not contagious. You cannot catch or spread a rash once it appears, even if you touch it or the blister fluid, because the urushiol will already be absorbed or washed off the skin. Poison ivy dermatitis rashes are self-limited; sooner or later they clear up without treatment.

Causes of Poison ivy

Poison ivy is caused by an allergic reaction to the oily coating that covers of these plants. One can get it from contaminated clothing. Even in winter the leafless stems and vines can cause the familiar skin rash. People who press the whole fruit, including the rind, against their skin can develop a severe reaction around the mouth. Those downwind from burning vegetation containing one of the offending plants can also develop widespread allergic reactions.

Common causes and risk factors of Poison ivy:

  • Contact with an oil found in poison ivy.
  • An allergic reaction to something that comes in direct contact with the skin.

Signs and Symptoms of Poison ivy

Once it touches the skin, the urushiol begins to penetrate in a matter of minutes. In those individuals who are sensitive to the chemical, reaction will appear in the form of a linear rash. The reaction usually develops a day or two after exposure and can last up to three weeks, even with treatment. In severe cases, new areas of rash may break out several days or more after initial exposure. The rash may seem to be spreading, but either it is still developing from earlier contact or you have touched something that still has urushiol on it.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Blisters filled with fluid that sometimes leaks out.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Red streaks or lines where the plant brushed against the skin, or general redness.
  • Small bumps or larger raised areas.
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, neck, genitals, or eyelids.

Treatment for Poison ivy

Applying cool compresses on the affected areas is sometimes adequate for relief. There are several over-the-counter lotions and ointments for treating poison ivy irritation and itchiness. Poison Ivy can be partially prevented by application of "Ivy Block" lotion before going in the woods, and washing off an exposed area with "Technu" liquid as soon as exposure is detected. Cool showers will help ease the itching and simple, over-the-counter preparations, like calamine lotion or Burrow's solution, will relieve mild rashes. Soaking in a tepid bath with an oatmeal or baking soda solution is often recommended to dry oozing blisters and offer some comfort.

Treatment may include:

  • Applying cool compresses on the affected areas is sometimes adequate for relief.
  • There are several prescription medications that are administered for treatment; for example, hydroxyzine hydrochloride helps relieve itching and dry blisters.
  • In extreme cases cortisone and prednisone pills or shots are used.
  • Moderate or severe cases of the rash may require treatment by a health professional, who may prescribe corticosteroid pills, creams, or ointments.