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Poison Ivy Strikes!

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

So you’ve taken the precautions, avoided as much of the plant as you could, but to no avail. The itch begins. What now? You walk into your local pharmacy and don’t know where to begin to find some relief. Most cases of poison ivy are treatable over the counter. Always seek medical attention if the reaction is severe. A severe reaction is defined as rash covering greater than 20% of the body surface or if the hands, face, or genital areas are involved. Most over the counter products are topical applications made to relieve itch and/or promote drying of the lesions. The two most common types of over the counter products are astringents and topical steroids.

Astringents cause contraction of mucous membranes of exposed tissues and can relieve itch and promote drying of weeping lesions. Calamine lotion is an astringent that can be applied directly to the skin. Domeboro packets can be mixed as directed on the packaging and used as a compress to affected areas.

Topical steroids can relieve itch and promote the drying of weeping lesions. A cream is always preferred over an ointment. Hydrocortisone 1% is the over the counter topical steroid. Available as Cortizone 10, Aveeno anti-itch cream, Cerave Anti-itch cream, among others. Higher potency topical steroids are also available with a prescription. Topical steroids are more effective the earlier they are started.

Other products to consider:

Products, Ivarest and Ivy-Dry, contain zinc, phenol or menthol and can soothe and relieve.

Aveeno oatmeal bath packets may help if lesions are non-weeping. Try to keep water cool or lukewarm if bathing. Hot water can make itching worse.

Antihistamines, like Benadryl, do not treat poison ivy. Benadryl tablets or capsules can be used to improve sleep. Benadryl cream should be avoided, it can make the itch worse.

In conclusion, most cases of poison ivy go away in 1 to 3 weeks. Unfortunately, there isn’t one product better than the other, and you may find yourself in a trial and error situation. Keep in mind to always consult a physician if the rash covers more than 20% of your body or involves the hands, face, or genital area.

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