And what to do if you can’t.
We all have memories of being on nature hikes when the guide warned, “leaves of three, let them be.” That, as a refresher, is in reference to poison ivy. For those who are allergic, this plant—and its cousins, poison oak and sumac—gives an itchy rash that often appears as lines or streaks, and can also bring about blisters and edema (puffiness). It’s also not uncommon for your eyelids to become swollen shut.
Unfortunately, the eruption comes from an oil called urushiol. It’s not contagious, and it actually may not even be noticeable for a few days after contact. So what to do? First, if you think you’ve touched the resin, wash it off your skin and clothes immediately. But if you’ve already noticed symptoms, try soothing the affected area with a cool shower and a colloidal oatmeal soak, and grab some Calamine lotion (sold over the counter) to help take off the edge. If it’s not getting any better, contact your dermatologist for a course of topical or oral steroids to help ease the inflammation.
Also, be sure to avoid topical Benadryl or antibiotics, as they can cause more irritation. And remember that dogs, balls in the neighbor’s yard, garden tools, the plume from weed whackers (you get the idea), can all be the source of this skin scourge, so keep an eye out and always go for the rinse-off if you think you’ve been exposed.