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Poison Ivy: Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares treatment tips

Poison Ivy: Dr. Joel Schlessinger Shares Treatment Tips

Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares how to treat and prevent poison ivy rashes.

Video Transcript

Today I’m going to be talking about poison ivy. This is something we see a lot of and we wish we didn’t.

There are three kinds of poison ivy. There’s poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Now, poison ivy is the most common and generally has leaves of three but it can even have other denominations of leaves including 5, 7 or 9 leaves. Poison oak and poison sumac are generally in North Carolina and on the West Coast, but they can be anywhere.

When you’re exposed to poison ivy, there is a chemical called urushiol that gets on your skin and gradually causes the reaction. Many people take days to develop and some people aren’t even susceptible to poison ivy. About 10 to 15 percent of the population isn’t susceptible to poison ivy, but those who are are very susceptible. 

If you get poison ivy, you’ve already had contact for days from the poison ivy itself so washing off doesn’t necessarily help you except if you still have it on your fingers or on the rest of your body. Under your fingernails is a common area for people to harbor the urushiol, the resin which is what causes poison ivy. So, if you have been out and you’ve touched it and you have it under your fingernails, it’s going to be important to wash it off.

The other thing that’s important to remember is if you’re going to an area of poison ivy infestation, there are some barrier creams. There are not ones that are perfect but you can get some ones that help called Ivy Off or Ivy Guard. If you do get poison ivy, it’s important to remember to take your clothes off and wash them immediately. Don’t re-wear your clothes! And make sure you take other things like your shoes and other items, coats, and wash them as well, if you can.

If you get poison ivy, you may want to consider using something like a product called Zanfel for it or FixMySkin Healing Balm, which is a 1% hydrocortisone product that we’ve developed. It will take about a week to two weeks to get rid of poison ivy. You can also use an antihistamine such as Claritin over the counter, which you can get in a drugstore. If you use Benadryl, use it by mouth. Do not use Benadryl topically or Caladryl topically because the Benadryl component in those can cause an allergic reaction on its own. Calamine, which doesn’t have the Benadryl, is just fine to use so if you want to use Calamine, that’s fine. Aveeno baths with oatmeal are also quite fine for poison ivy.

If your symptoms are getting worse and you’re having significant discomfort, you may want to go to a dermatologist for a Prednisone prescription or some steroid injection. Sometimes that does help. And sometimes poison ivy can get infected, so it’s important to go to a dermatologist for treatment just because it may be infected. Whatever the case, avoidance is the most important thing you can do. And, if you do get it, my wishes are out for a speedy recovery to you.

Thanks so much for listening today.

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