Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How can I alleviate the symptoms of poison ivy?"
It itches terribly. Will creams work? Should I go to a doctor if it's near my eyes?
Contact with the plant family that contains poison ivy is a very common cause of skin reactions and contact dermatitis seen in the U.S. Unfortunately, the dermatitis can be very troublesome, requiring various treatments for symptomatic relief. After a known recent exposure to poison ivy, it is recommended that any potentially contaminated articles of clothing be immediately removed, and that soap and water be used on the skin to wash off any remaining toxin. Once the rash has already appeared, soothing creams and lotions may be of benefit, such as those containing menthol and phenol (such as calamine lotion). Cool compresses and oatmeal baths may also provide some relief. For itching associated with the lesions, oral antihistamines (such as Benadryl) may be helpful. If the rash is severe and treatment is begun early after the rash has appeared, then topical steroid creams may be of benefit in providing symptomatic relief, although they do not likely shorten the course of the rash. If the rash is on the face, then high-potency steroid creams should be avoided due to the thinness of the skin in that area. Furthermore, if the rash is on the face, then oral systemic steroids (such as prednisone) may be indicated. You should seek out the care of your primary care physician to make sure that your rash and symptoms are well-controlled.
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