Poison Ivy and Oak(Rhus Allergy)
What causes the Poison Ivy rash?
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak rashes are caused by an allergy to the juices of these plants – called Rhus plants. You don’t have to come in direct contact with the leaves, roots, or branches of Rhus plants to get the rash. The plant juice can reach your skin indirectly when you touch clothing or a pet that carries the plant juice.
Like other allergies, Rhus allergy is acquired; you’re not born with it. While some lucky people never become allergic to Rhus plants, most persons become sensitized at some point and remain allergic. Unfortunately, it is difficult to desensitize persons allergic to Rhus plants. This is typically performed through an allergist.
Is Poison Ivy contagious?
Your Poison Ivy rash is not contagious. The fluid in the blisters does not spread the rash.
How are Rhus rashes treated?
Rhus rashes are self-limited – sooner or later they clear up without treatment. Letting nature take its course is reasonable with mild Rhus rash. Severe Poison Ivy and Poison Oak rashes are treated by a doctor. Systemic cortisone is effective in treating Rhus rash.
When the swelling has gone down, cortisone cream or ointment will help your rash heal. Don’t put anything on your rash except the prescription cream, water, or a vinegar-water mixture. You may bathe or shower as usual; keep the water as cool as you can stand and don’t use soap on your rash, as it irritates.
Can Rhus rash be prevented?
The only way to prevent Rhus rash is to avoid contact with the plant juice. It’s traditional advice to wash with strong soap after poison ivy or poison oak exposure. This does no harm, but in order to prevent a rash, you have to wash within 15 – 30 minutes of exposure. If you can do so, simply washing with water and mild soap will effectively remove any plant juice from clothing, pets, or tools. Strong soaps are unnecessary. Rhus plants may cause rashes throughout the year. Roots and stems can cause a rash just as much as the leaves. If you don’t recognize Poison Ivy or Poison Oak plants, have friends or neighbors point them out so you can avoid them.
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