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Poison Ivy - Dealing with the Poison Ivy Rash

Poison Ivy Treatment Guide


Updated June 25, 2014

Unfortunately, few people recognize their poison ivy exposure or are aware enough to wash off the urushiol within 10 minutes to prevent a reaction. Others don't even recognize their exposure to poison ivy.

Unless they are one of the lucky few who are immune to poison ivy, many of these children who are exposed to poison ivy will eventually develop a rash.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy

After exposure to the leaves, stems, or roots of a poison ivy plant, children develop symptoms of poison ivy within 8 hours to a week or so, including:
  • an intensely itchy rash
  • red bumps that often are in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with your child's skin
  • vesicles and blisters that are filled with fluid
Keep in mind that children exposed to poison sumac and poison oak, other members of the genus Rhus or Toxicodendron, can get these same symptoms that are generically referred to as poison ivy symptoms above.

(Using medical terminology, these children develop rhus dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, an intensely pruritic, linear, erythematous, papulovesicular rash after exposure to the urushiol oil in poison ivy.)

Other characteristic signs and symptoms of poison ivy are that the rash will worsen over days or weeks without treatment with steroids, the rash may not go away for up to three weeks without treatment, many children will have worsening symptoms with each exposure, and that some areas of a child's skin that had less exposure to the poison ivy plant will get the rash later than others.

Poison Ivy Treatments

Typical treatments for poison ivy are going to be directed at helping to control your child's itching, and can include non-steroidal topical medications, topical steroids, oral antihistamines (Benadryl), and/or oral steroids (prednisone) or a steroid shot.

Wet dressings, compresses, or soaks with Domeboro solution mixed with water (modified Burow's Solution) or Aveeno oatmeal baths can be especially soothing for itchy rashes.

Examples include:

  • Atarax (hydroxyzine, a prescription oral antihistamine)
  • Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal
  • Aveeno 1% Hydrocortizone Anti-Itch Cream (OTC topical steroid)
  • Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel
  • Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Cortizone 10 (OTC topical steroid)
  • Cutivate cream 0.05% (prescription topical steroid)
  • Domeboro Astringent Solution Powder Packets
  • Gold Bond Maximum Strength Medicated Anti-Itch Cream
  • Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel with Soothing Aloe Vera
  • Locoid cream 0.1% (prescription topical steroid)
  • Triamcinolone acetonide 0.1% (prescription topical steroid)
Newer medications that are supposed to target poison ivy symptoms include:
  • Burts's Bees Poison Ivy Soap
  • Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit
  • Ivarest Medicated Cream
  • IvyStat
  • Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub
  • Zanfel Wash For Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac
If your child has a history of severe reactions to poison ivy or his rash is quickly spreading, be sure to see your Pediatrician right away for professional help. Keep in mind that many children need prescription strength oral steroids or a steroid shot to avoid severe poison ivy reactions.

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