Health Watch: Poison Ivy
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Hi I’m Dr. Larson over at Creekside Medical Clinic. When the skin comes into contact with an irritating substance, a rash called contact dermatitis can develop. A common cause of this itchy rash in the Black Hills is Poison Ivy. The plant can be identified by looking for a stem with a larger leaf at the end and two smaller leaves shooting off at the sides. The leaves can be notched or smooth on the edges, and they have pointed tips. It can be seen as a vine or a shrub, though in South Dakota it typically looks more like a shrub. Poison Ivy contains a light colorless oil that is found in all parts of the plant. It is exposure to this oil that can cause an irritating rash. You can be exposed to the oil through touching the sap or rubbing against the leaves of a plant, or touching something else that has the oil on it such as animal fur or garden tools. After contacting the oil of the plant, approximately 50% of people will develop an itchy red blistering rash, and this rash can show up from 4 hours to 4 days after exposure. The rash from poison ivy is not contagious meaning that touching the rash of someone with poison ivy cannot give you the rash; however, the oil from the plant can be passed to other people if it is on your clothing, fingers, or fingernails. If you are one of the 50% that does react to poison ivy and you find yourself with an itchy rash, here are a few things you can do to treat your symptoms. One, take an oatmeal bath, cool compresses, calamine lotion can relieve itching. 2, steroid creams can be helpful, but it usually takes a strong steroid that you can only get through a doctor. 3, know that the rash is usually self-limited and will go away on its own within 3 weeks. To prevent a poison ivy rash, be sure to wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pants. If you are exposed, take off the contaminated clothing and gently wash the exposed areas with soap and water. You have the greatest chance of preventing the rash if you can wash off within 10 minutes of exposure. And remember, when able, if you see leaves of three, let it be
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