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Let’s Talk about that Rash

General Dermatology PASummertime is a great time to get outdoors. Doing so, though, may send you straight into an inadvertent encounter with poison ivy. This plant, as well as its cousins, sumac and poison oak, pack quite the punch when it comes to the skin. Many people have heard of the intensely itchy rash attributed to one of these plants, but that doesn’t mean we all know how to keep ourselves safe. In fact, there may be a few things that you don’t know about them.

Poison ivy may be brought to you by your pet. This is important to know in case you develop a rash days, or weeks, after that nice, long hike. Pets are not affected by the resin in poison ivy the way their owners are. A quick jaunt through the bushes, or brush with the leaves of a poison ivy plant, will do little to Fido – except maybe leave him with rash-causing resin on his fur for you to touch at a later time.

  • Die-off doesn’t mean dormant. During the winter months, the leaves of the poison ivy plant may dwindle. However, the resin that causes problems is also contained in the stems and even the roots of the plant. Any contact during any time of year could mean a nasty rash.
  • Heat-up could mean flare-up. Rashes don’t tend to like heat. A hot shower or what is supposed to be a relaxing evening in the hot tub could significantly worsen the itch from poison ivy. Until the rash is gone, it’s best to bathe in cooler water. Ice packs have even been known to settle the itch.
  • You can’t “catch” poison ivy. Once the rash of poison ivy develops, one may think that they cannot be touched, or should not touch a loved one who has the rash. This is true, but only because you don’t want to spread germs through the potentially open skin, not because the rash is contagious. Poison ivy rash occurs only when contact is made with the resin of the plant.

Don’t let poison ivy interfere with your summertime fun. Learn what to look for and remember to shower after hikes or walks in wilder places. Your skin will thank you!

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