How to Stop Dermatitis Forever

You’re a down-to-earth kind of person. You love to work in your yard, and you frequently take long walks in the woods, admiring the plants and the wildlife. However, you have to be careful what kinds of plants you admire. The leaves of a poison ivy plant can leave you with itchy red blisters that make you miserable for days. Poison ivy is the leading cause of contact dermatitis. Its relatives, poison oak and poison sumac, also do their share of making people uncomfortable each year.

Of course, the best way to avoid the annoying itch is to avoid the plants themselves. But to do that, you have to be able to recognize them. “Leaves of three, let it be” is an old saying that warned people away from poison ivy. While this is usually true, sometimes the leaves may grow in groups of five, seven, or even nine, depending on the environment.

Stop Dermatitis

Poison ivy has yellow-green flowers and white berries and grows as a vine which may climb up trees, or as a low shrub. Poison oak grows as a small tree or shrub with clusters of yellow berries and leaves that resemble oak leaves. Poison sumac is a rangy shrub that can grow up to 15 feet high. It has seven to 13 smooth-edged leaves and cream-colored berries. It grows mostly in swampy areas.

The sap in these plants has a substance called urushiol that causes the allergic reaction. If the plant is damaged even a little, the urushiol can get on your skin or clothing and set off a reaction. Urushiol can also stick to pets, garden tools, or other objects and then transfer to your skin.

About 85 percent of people will develop an allergic reaction if exposed to the urushiol in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. This aller­gic sensitivity seems to develop slowly, after being exposed several times, so don’t assume that because you’ve never had a reaction that you are immune. However, you usually become less sensitive as you get older.

To protect yourself before you head for the great outdoors, you might want to try Ivy Block. It’s an over-the-counter lotion that protects your skin from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Just apply it at least 15 minutes before you go outside.

If you know you have been around poison ivy, oak, or sumac, don’t waste any time getting it off your skin. You should clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol and rinse with water. Then you should take a shower with soap and warm water. Tools, shoes, or anything else that may have come into contact with the plants should also be wiped with alcohol and rinsed off.

If you don’t get your skin cleansed quickly enough, and if you are sensitive to urushiol, redness and swelling will begin in 12 to 48 hours. You will then develop blisters and severe itching, but resist the urge to scratch the blisters if you can. Scratching will not spread your rash, but your fingernails may carry germs which could set off an infection.

After a few days, your rash will become crusty and scaly, and you should be completely healed in 14 to 20 days. In the meantime, if you can’t stand the itching, wet compresses or soaking in a cool bath may soothe your itchy skin.

Antihistamine pills may help, and you can buy hydro­cortisone creams over the counter for temporary relief from your itching. If you have a severe reaction, your doctor may prescribe steroid creams or pills.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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