- Mary Catlett, NP,
Valley Health Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Family Medicine | Mt. Jackson
It’s that time of year when we love to go tromping through the woods
and be one with nature.
It’s also that time of year when we, as healthcare Providers, see
poison ivy rashes. As a Camp Nurse, and Nurse Practitioner, I have had
many encounters with the rash and the itching and discomfort that rash
can produce. Here are some of the things I have learned that might be
helpful to know.
First, if you plan to commune with nature, dress appropriately. Wear long
socks or long pants to avoid skin contact with the plant. Poison Ivy generally
appears as three leaves that have irregular shapes. The leaves are shiny
and should be avoided. The rash appears after exposure to the oil on the
plant called urushiol. If you think you have been exposed during outside
activities, make sure you wash your skin with soap and water immediately!
Once the rash appears, it will be red and may have tiny blisters along
the line of exposure. If the blisters, pop, this will not spread the rash…only
the oil spreads the rash, so make sure you wash your clothes, bed sheets,
and the towel you used when cleaning yourself from an exposure.
For treatment of the rash and its symptoms:
- Apply cool compresses to the skin.
- Use topical treatments to relieve itching, including calamine lotion, oatmeal
baths, or Domeboro solution available over the counter at many local stores.
Benadryl cream and Hydrocortisone creams are also available over the counter (OTC).
Oral antihistamines, such as
Allegra may also help (All of these medications are now generic so if you look
for the brand name, the generic will be next to it, and it will be cheaper!)
- If you scratch, (and you probably will), make sure you watch the rash to
ensure you don’t get a secondary infection. Increased redness, pain,
drainage may indicate infection. OTC antibiotic ointments are also available
for use in these situations.
- For a more sever rash, see you’re your health-care provider who may
prescribe an oral corticosteroid (such as prednisone).
Have fun this summer, but always remember, “Leaves of three, let
If you would like additional information or would like to make an appointment,
please call 540-459-1350 or visit our practice page at