Poison Ivy

Aug 8, 2012

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Poor Eric may never learn his home phone number now. Now dont get me wrong, Eric isnt dumb. He is quite bright. Before he could read, he could download Scooby Doo videos from Youtube onto the iPad. He still routinely uses the Apple videoconferencing software FaceTime to videoconference with me at work. Imagine, a 7 year old thinks it is perfectly natural to videoconference with his dad. However, Eric doesnt know his home phone number. We have been working on it since pre-school. You know, Eric if you are separated from Mom and Dad, what are Mom and Dads names? What is your address? What is your phone number? He is good at the address, but the digits in the phone number always get jumbled. In the last couple of weeks though, Eric was getting much better. You see he would steal my cell phone, run to his closet and phone the house. Then when Id answer, hed giggle and ask where I thought he was. This is Erics version of hide and seek. He had a piece of paper with our home phone number written on it, but even without his piece of paper, he still just about had the number memorized. Then July 29, 2012 we went to 10 digit dialing. Eric may be itching his head about his home phone number for a little while longer. And at least Eric only itches his head, not screams obscenities at the phone like his father when he forgets to dial the 204.


Some of the worst itching you are likely to run into around Dauphin is the poison ivy rash. Poison ivy is plant. Around Manitobawe have poison ivy, while poison oak is found in British Columbia and poison sumac grows in Eastern Canada. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are members of the Toxicodenron plant family. These plants are the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. The poison ivy rash occurs in about 50% of people who are exposed to the plant resin which contains urushiol oil. Another 30% of people will react if they are exposed to large amounts of urushiol oil.


The best way to avoid the poison ivy rash is to avoid the plant. Im not a plant expert. Other than knowing leaves of three, let them be, I couldnt steer you clear of the plant. I found an interesting factoid though. While protective clothing is a good idea if you are clearing poison ivy from an area, rubber gloves arent the glove of choice. Apparently the urushiol oil can penetrate rubber. Vinyl gloves are a better choice.


If poison ivy has touched your skin, wash your skin immediately. You dont have much time though. Urushiol oil binds to the skin after 5 minutes and if it is on the skin for 10 minutes, you are going to get a rash. Water can physically remove the oil, and adding soap is a good idea. It doesnt seem to matter if you use soap, an oil remover or agents that claim to inactivate the urushiol. They all seem to work about the same. It is possible to get urushiol to spread from your clothes to your body as you take them off. So immediately throw the clothes in the laundry and jump into the shower to remove any oils transferred to the body. Also concentrate on cleaning under your finger nails. Urushiol can hide under there and be ready to start new rashes. Also wash your pets and golf clubs. Urushiol is believed to be still be active on a golf club for up to 5 years if it is not removed.


The poison ivy rash usually occurs within 24-48 hours after exposure and will last 1 to 4 weeks. People usually show up at the pharmacy with a red, swollen, bumpy rash that is very, very itchy. Within the first few days, the rash may start oozing or weeping. Contrary to popular belief, the weepy fluid is not contagious and will not cause the rash to spread. Poison ivy rash will go away on its own, and unless it gets infected it is very unlikely to cause any long term damage. However, because of the intense itching, many people seek medical attention soon after poison ivy exposure.


What can be done to treat poison ivy rash? For a mild rash any plain non-irritating moisturizer can be used to soothe the itch, keep the area moist and speed healing. For an oozing, weeping rash, try is an astringent to soothe the itch and relieve swelling and redness and slow the oozing. Examples of astringents are Burows solution, and calamine lotion. Burows solution, also known as Buro-Sol, comes in packets you mix with water. The affected skin is soaked in the solution for 15-30 minutes several times a day. It is not a good idea to use this on broken, cracked skin or if the area is raw or bleeding. Oatmeal containing products like Aveeno, can also help a mild rash. Aveeno comes in creams that can be applied directly to the itchy area, or in big packets that can be put in a bath. Antihistamine tablets can be used to relieve a really unbearable itch. Some like benadryl will work fast, but make you sleepy. Others like reactine should keep the itch away all day with out causing drowsiness.


When do you see a doctor for poison ivy? If a very large area is affected, or when sensitive areas like the hands, face or genitals, you should see your doctor. Infants and young children should be taken to the doctor.


The itch from a poison ivy rash can seem like it will drive you mad. But at least we have medications available to relieve the itch. Now if we could just get me a medication to calm me down when I hear, The local number you have dialed must be proceeded by its area code.



As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.


The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.


We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca


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