Welcome to Bloomington. Enjoy the poison ivy.
It's extremely common in Monroe County. You'll see its vines growing on trees, rock walls, and buildings. It can even take over small bushes and shrubs. You'll recognize it by its three pairs of leaflets, all joined to a common stalk. Sometimes, the stems are slightly reddish. In mid-summer, it sprouts grape-like clumps of greenish, then white berries. In the fall, it turns an attractive orange-yellow or red. Delightful, huh?
The "poison" in poison ivy comes from its sap. Just touching poison ivy won't give you a rash, unless the leaves or stems are broken or bruised. Damaging any part of the plant, including the vines and roots, or burning it, releases the sap. Sap clings to your pet's fur, to yard tools, and to your clothing, too. So you can get it from touching those items, too, even weeks later.
Poison Ivy Symptoms
Poison ivy rash can appear in as little as 6 hours or as long as 2 weeks after exposure. Generally, you'll see the first blisters within 1-2 days. Symptoms include:
- Red, swollen, itchy skin
- Blisters that break and ooze
The good news is that you can't spread poison ivy by scratching your blisters. The bad news is they can get infected, so be careful.
Poison Ivy Prevention and Treatment
Once the sap gets on your skin, it soaks in quickly. If you wash with soap and cool water within 10-20 minutes of exposure, you may be able to prevent the rash. You can also reduce its seriousness by washing within an hour. After that, it soaks in completely.
There are a lot of home remedies to prevent poison ivy. Unfortunately, they don't work. Poison ivy "shots" are ineffective. Skin barrier creams or sprays, such as Stokogard, can slow absorption but still require you to wash with soap and water if you are exposed.
There are a few things you can do to control that awful itching. Try these tips:
- Take cool baths and showers, because heat causes the rash to itch and swell more.
- Use over-the-count medications such as calamine lotion, Burow's solution, and hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.
- Treat broken blisters with antibiotic ointment and bandages to avoid infection.
If you're really miserable, visit the IU Health Center Medical Clinic for further assessment.