“Leaves of three let them be.” See photos and video at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/default.html
Poison ivy is extremely common on the IU campus, surrounding areas and most of the U.S. The vines grow on trees, rock walls, and buildings. It can even take over small bushes and shrubs. It is recognized it by three vaguely mitten shaped leaflets, all joined to a common stalk. Sometimes, the stems are slightly reddish. In mid-summer, it sprouts grape-like clumps of greenish to off-white berries. In the fall, the leaves can turn an attractive orange-yellow or red...inviting to the touch, but please avoid that temptation! There are two other less common, yet locally found, plants of the same family and genus with similar capability to cause contact dermatitis that that you should be aware of…poison oak and poison sumac. They are different in appearance than poison ivy and less commonly seen in the Bloomington area, but as potent. Learning to identify all three is a worthwhile investment of time.
- Red, swollen, itchy skin with a rash that can be widespread depending on contact areas. Often the rash is streaked or linear in the pattern of contact with the plant.
- Blisters that break and ooze. The fluid from the blisters does not cause further spread of rash on the body or to others.
- Secondary skin infection can occur from excessive scratching which will cause pain, increased redness and a potential change in the nature of the drainage from clear to pus like.
- Take cool baths and showers, because heat causes the rash to itch and swell more.
- Cool Domeboro or Burow's Solution soaks/compresses can be soothing
- Compounds containing menthol and phenol, such as Calamine Lotion, can temporarily lessen itch
- Over the counter topical steroids, such as 1% hydrocortisone cream may of benefit. Avoid repeated use to sensitive skin areas of the face, genitalia, or skin fold areas, or any use to mucosal areas or around the eyes. Do not use for more than 14 days.
- Treat broken blisters with gentle soap and water and, if needed, light non-adherent bandages to prevent infection.
- Avoid use of topical products containing benzocaine, neomycin, bacitracin, or antihistamines, as they possess their own allergenic potential.
- Since the itch from poison ivy is not caused by histamine release, second generation antihistamines such as Claritin, Clarinex, Allegra, or Zyrtec, are of little use. First generation antihistamines such as Benadryl have some potential for relief, largely through side effects of sedation, which at least allow for sleeping despite the itch. Driving, alcohol and recreational drug use, and use of any other known sedating medications should not be mixed with first generation antihistamines.
- Consider treatment at the IU Health Center for cases of suspected poison ivy or other types of contact dermatitis. If indicated, prescription medications may relieve or improve symptoms. Provider health care is recommended for rash near the eyes or covering large areas of the body.