How to Treat Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Rashes

Man on a hike with poison ivy How to Treat Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Rashes

When you return from an outdoor adventure and develop an itchy skin rash, you might start to worry. Rashes from poison ivy and poison oak can linger for over a week, causing major discomfort. However, with some simple home remedies and help from a dermatologist, you can find relief until the rash clears.

How to Stop Poison Ivy from Itching

Identifying Plant Reactions

Poison ivy and poison oak are common plants that cause a reaction on the skin. The plants contain a sap called urushiol, which can cause an allergic reaction. Typically, the reaction looks like a red, itchy rash that appears within a few hours or even several days later. The rash may develop bumps or blisters, which may ooze over time. It can be tricky to tell which plant you came in contact with, as both trigger a similar reaction.

The rash typically forms on the skin that came in contact with the plant. So, you might notice the itchy rash on your legs at first. However, if you touch your legs and then your arms, you might develop the rash on your arms as well.

Treating Plant Reactions

While poison ivy and poison oak reactions are common skin rashes, they are still uncomfortable. At-home treatment is generally the first step in finding relief. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if you’re showing signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling, a rash covering most of your body, a rash on your face or genitals, or fever.

To treat a more mild rash at home, you should first wash your skin and clothing to remove any lingering sap. It’s important to avoid scratching the rash, as this can cause an infection. To relieve itching, try applying over-the-counter products like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Cool compresses and lukewarm baths may also help soothe the skin.

Be sure to avoid topical antihistamines, anesthetics, or antibiotics, as these products may irritate the rash. Call your dermatologist if you have any questions about at-home rash treatment. You should also call their office if your rash doesn’t go away within a few weeks. In this case, you may require more intense treatment like an oral or topical steroid. A dermatologist can also distinguish a plant reaction from other types of rashes, ensuring that you’re treating the right type of skin reaction.

Preventing Plant Reactions

To prevent future plant rashes, you’ll want to learn to identify the poisonous plants in your area. You should also wear tall hiking socks, long pants, and long sleeves whenever you’ll be spending time in the forest or other wooded area. Take similar precautions when gardening or working outside, as these plants can grow in your yard as well. Wash your clothes and rinse your skin as soon as you return inside.

Keep in mind that pets can also rub up against a poisonous plant and transfer the oil to your skin. If your pet has been outdoors with you, be sure to give them a bath using rubber gloves and pet shampoo.

Plants like poison ivy and poison oak can be hard to avoid. If you experience a plant reaction or other type of itchy skin rash, the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists is here to help. Through our medical dermatology services, our professionals can accurately diagnose and treat your rash. With locations in Long Beach, CA and other communities, we also offer cosmetic and surgical services around the Greater Los Angeles area. Contact us today to learn more or to book an appointment.

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