Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Health Care and Poison Ivy

Summertime is almost in full swing. That means school is out, families are going on vacation, picnics and playtime for kids, and hiking in the woods and on trails. When everyone heads outdoors to experience nature at its best, it’s always best to take precautions especially if you are headed into areas that have a lot of green foliage. Or, if you are the type that loves working in your garden or flower beds, you can bet that you’ll be dealing not only with your plants, flowers, and vegetables, but also with lots of weeds, and some of them can be down right nasty. One of those mean green weeds is poison ivy, and it thrives during the heat of the summer season.

According to pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli, most parents love when their kids go outside to play. Unfortunately, in addition to the sun and bugs, poison ivy can be a big problem for kids playing outside. Poison ivy can also be a hazard to gardeners, people landscaping their yards, hikers, campers, and anyone else who likes to spend time outdoors.

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. If you think you are immune because you have never developed a rash before, keep in mind that it can sometimes take multiple exposures or several years before you finally begin to develop an allergic response to urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy that triggers the rash that most people get, according to Dr. Ianelli. Whether or not you think that you or your kids are immune to poison ivy, it is a good idea to not take any chances and to learn how to recognize and avoid poison ivy. Unfortunately, the old 'leaves of three, let it be' phrase isn't usually enough to help everyone avoid poison ivy.

According to the Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center, about 15 percent of the 120 million Americans who are allergic to poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are so highly sensitive that they break out in a rash and begin to swell in 4 to 12 hours instead of the normal 24 to 48. Their eyes may swell shut and blisters may erupt on their skin. “This is one of the few true emergencies in dermatology,” says William L. Epstein, MD. Get to a hospital as soon as possible. A shot of corticosteroids will bring the swelling down. Much more information about various treatments can be found at this site: http://poisonivy.aesir.com/view/medical.html .

How do you get poison ivy? According to Poison-Ivy.org, from touching it, or touching something that has touched it, like your clothes or your dog. You normally get it from touching the leaves, but yanking the vine out by the roots - even in winter - will give you a wicked rash. Using a weed eater to remove poison ivy will result in spraying your legs with poison ivy. If you are bare-legged and get scratches while splattered with sap from poison ivy, you may be headed to the emergency room. And there are more unusual ways to get it, like breathing smoke from firewood burning with poison ivy on it, which can also put people into the hospital.

At first you get a slight itchy spot, which gets worse and worse. It can be a a small itchy area that will annoy you, or it can cover your whole body with giant red sores that will drive you nuts, according to Poison-Ivy.org. The poison ivy rash, even when not huge and ugly, can be one of the itchiest experiences a person will ever have. Within a hour or so you should rinse with lots of cold water - like a garden hose. Hot water will open your pores and let the oil in. Taking shower could be a disaster. (Later, after the oil is all absorbed or washed off, and you HAVE a big rash, hot showers can ease the itch for a few hours.) For up to about 6 hours washing with alcohol may still help remove the oil, but many say that after 1/2 hour the oil has soaked in and you can't remove it. The next day is really too late. Check with your doctor to see if early treatment can prevent the rash before it really starts. For a serious case you MUST SEE A DOCTOR. For less serious cases check with your local drugstore or pharmacist, or see the list below for remedies. Here is a list of popular home remedies:

  • Take a shower in the hottest water you can stand, for as long as you can stand - this may ease the itch for a few hours. Be careful not to get burned by the hot water.
  • If heat eases your rash, you can also try a hair dryer, but BE CAREFUL. Don't burn yourself.
  • Jewelweed is widely thought to help the rash. Mash the weed and apply to the rash.
  • Spray with a deodorant containing aluminum, which most do.
Much more details about dealing with poison ivy can be found at this website: http://www.poison-ivy.org/html/faq.htm .

Additionally, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), if you have any of the following, go to the emergency room right away:

• Trouble breathing or swallowing.
• Rash covers most of your body.
• You have a huge number of rashes or blisters.
• Swelling, especially if your eyes swell shut.
• Rash develops anywhere on your face or genitals.
• Your skin itches all over with no relief.

As the skin heals, it can itch, according to the AAD. It is best not to scratch. Scratching can cause an infection. To ease the itch at home, dermatologists recommend that their patients try one or more of the following:

• Oatmeal bath: Take short lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore.
• Baking soda bath: Draw a warm, not hot, bath, and add 1 cup of baking soda to the running water.
• Calamine lotion: Apply this to skin that itches.
• Cool showers: Short cool showers can help.
• Cool compresses: You can make a cool compress by running a clean washcloth under cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
• Antihistamine pills: These pills can help, but you should not apply an antihistamine to your skin. Doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.

• Go to their website for more information: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/poison-ivy/tips/poison-ivy-tips-for-treating-and-preventing .

Dr. Vincent Ianelli also has more options to treat Poison Ivy. Examples include:

• 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
• Calamine 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)

Newer medications that are supposed to target poison ivy symptoms include:

• Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap
• Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit
• Ivarest Medicated Cream
• IvyStat
• Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub
• Zanfel Wash For Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac

There is a lot of information at this website from Dr. Ianelli: http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/conditions/a/poison_ivy.htm?nl=1 .

Coming in contact with Poison Ivy is a common occurrence, especially during the warmer months. Be careful when you are gardening or out enjoying nature. The chances you may come in contact with this wicked little weed can be good. Use your commons sense when you think you may be exposed, and teach your kids about staying away from poison ivy. They will thank you for it. If you have a problem once you come in contact with it, see your doctor for treatment if your reaction is severe. If it’s worse, then go to the emergency room as quickly as possible. Don’t let a weed get the best of you.

Until next time.

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