Your Health: Preventing poison ivy rash this summer

We've all heard the saying, 'Leaves of three, let it be.' but poison ivy can be tricky, it can hide in the brush, not always in plain sight. 

Cleveland Clinic Dermatologist Melisa Piliang says people might not know. they've come in contact with it right away, as it can sometimes take a while for a poison ivy rash to show up

But when it does, it's unmistakable.

"For poison ivy, it's terribly itchy. It's that itch, and people, once you've had it once, you know when you get it again. It's that terrible, unmistakable itch." said Dr. Piliang

Doctor Piliang says the first time you're exposed to poison ivy, you might not get a rash.  

But if you're exposed again, you will likely get the itchy rash, and it gets worse each time you come in contact with it. If you get the rash on parts of the body with thicker skin, like your hands, it takes longer for the rash to appear.

A poison ivy rash first shows up in places where skin is thinner, like the eyelids.

Doctor Piliang says resin, or oil, on the leaves and stems of poison ivy is what causes the reaction. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of poison ivy than others, it simply depends on your immune system. 

Doctor Piliang says prevention is key, if you're going to be in a wooded area, wear long sleeves and pants, and use gloves to clear out brush in your landscaping. 

Even if you're not sure if you were exposed to poison ivy, it's best to clean your clothes right away. 

"When you get home, really before you even go very far in your house, strip all those clothes off, put them in the wash, wash them in hot, soapy water, throw them in your dryer. And you should get in the shower, start with cold water, cold water will rinse the oil off. Hot water lets it spread more, so rinse with cool water, and then you can use soap and water to rinse the rest off." says Dr. Piliang

If you develop a small poison ivy rash, Doctor Piliang recommends using over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment, putting a cool compress on the affected area, or taking an antihistamine. 

But if you have it over a large part of your body, or if you develop a fever, you should seek medical attention.

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