(Chelsea Update would like to thank Dr. Barry Nemon, director of the ER at Chelsea Community Hospital for the information in this column.)
There is nothing good about a bad case of poison ivy.
But maybe if we understand what is happening to us, we can alter the course a bit.
First of all, if you know you were exposed (see the plant), you must immediately wash off your exposed skin. Those first two hours are crucial. Get some plain soap and water and wash.
Also, change your clothes and if you think your dog ran through the poison ivy … well then, a dog bath is in order, too.
The above advice assumes that you suddenly realized that you were exposed because you saw the plants. What if you did not?” By the time the actual rash starts, it’s probably too late to really change the course.
You should still wash your skin well, clean under your fingernails and also think of washing your pet.
Even when you’ve washed yourself off – why does the rash seem to keep spreading?
Urushiol, the substance released by the plant, penetrates the skin within two hours of exposure and is harbored in cells below the surface. The actual rash might start in four hours or possibly take up to five days after exposure to begin.
The appearance of the rash will depend on how much of it got onto different areas of your skin. The amounts of urushiol are not equal on all exposed parts of the skin, so the reaction will seem to be progressing.
The rash symptoms generally peak about two weeks after exposure.
The treatment for poison ivy is steroids.
They can be topically applied, taken orally, or administered through injection. If you have a bad rash from poison Ivy, the steroids that you can get over the counter at the drug store, without a prescription will probably not be strong enough. You will probably need a prescription for a stronger steroid prescription. Also, Benadryl is not effective.
I will try and leave this discussion on a positive note: as you age, the reaction to poison ivy seems to be less severe. Getting old is a beautiful thing.
Next up, we’ll talk about strokes.