Poison Ivy

Jun 16, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Golf season is finally here. I am not an avid golfer, but I did play in the Dauphin King's Par 3 tournament this weekend. Man, oh man, what a beautiful course in Gilbert Plains and what a great job by the organizers. This tournament is my kind of golf, because when I hit it in the bush, I don't have to go looking for it. Some places a poor drive will put your golf ball in the water, some courses it means slamming your ball off someone's roof. In Manitoba, it likely means its in the bush, and if its in the bush, you going to find you going to find your ball puts you at risk of poison ivy.

The effects of poison ivy are caused by an allergic reaction to an oily resin called urushiol. This oil is in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy and poison oak. These plants are members of the toxicodenron plant family. The poison ivy rash occurs in about 50% of people who are exposed to the plant resin, even in the smallest amount. Just like you have good golfers and bad golfers, some get it worse than others.

Signs and symptoms of a poison ivy rash include redness, swelling, itching and in more severe reactions blistering. Usually poison ivy rash appears as a straight line where the plant brushes against your skin. If you are in contact with large amounts of the plant or in contact with something that has the oil already on it, the rash may appear broad or spread out.

When the itching begins you may transfer the oil, and therefore the rash to other parts of your body with your fingers. A poison ivy reaction usually develops 12 to 48 hours after exposure and lasts around two to three weeks. The severity of the rash depends on the amount of toxic oil that gets on your skin. Your skin must come in direct contact with the plant's oil to be affected. Contrary to popular belief, blister fluid does not spread the rash.

The best way to avoid the poison ivy rash is to avoid the plant. You should quit hitting your ball in the bush and stop picking berries where there could be poison ivy. You could also do a Google image search on poison ivy before you head out and avoid anything that looks like the plant.

If you are in contact with poison ivy, wash your skin right away. Washing off the oil may reduce the risk of getting the rash or help reduce the severity of it. Treating mild cases of poison ivy on your own is possible. Using soothing lotions like Aveeno and taking cool baths are proven to help. For a weeping of oozing reaction, calamine lotion can be a savior. Treating non-blistering areas with steroid creams such as Hydrocortisone (available without a prescription) can significantly reduce the itching, redness, and allergic reaction on the skin. A non-drowsy antihistamine is also an option as they work to reduce the reaction. The DCP has generic options available which work just as well as Claritin and Reactine and they will save you money to replace those lost golf balls.

Severe cases may require prescription medication. Most commonly we see oral prednisone, or a strong steroid cream prescribed. Steroid treatment helps reduce the severity of the allergic reaction, including redness, inflammation, and itching. Poison ivy on the face usually requires medical attention as it is often more severe and difficult to treat. Visit the walk-in clinic if your poison ivy is severe or on the face.

If you have mild or moderate poison ivy and have questions, start with your most accessible health care provider, your clinic pharmacist! Happy golfing!


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