Is the itch driving you crazy?
Are you willing to pay anything for relief?
Whoa, there. Now don’t do anything rash. (Cute, huh?)
First, are you sure it’s poison ivy? Or poison oak or sumac? If so, read on.
If not, see your doctor or visit www.webmd.com/allergies/tc/poison-ivy-oak-or-sumac-topic-overview.
OK, say you’re sure you’ve been exposed to the offending plant and have developed a rash.
You have three choices:
1. Do nothing and wait it out. The rash is not contagious and will resolve on its own with time – usually 2 or 3 weeks. This option is good for people with minimal symptoms, and best of all, it’s FREE.
2. Treat yourself at home. The primary goal of treatment is symptom relief, and the main symptom is itching. Itching may be relieved by Calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, over-the-counter antihistamines, and OTC hydrocortisone cream. All these choices are inexpensive – certainly less than $20, even if you use 2 or 3 combined. Loratadine (generic Claritin) or cetirizine (generic Zyrtec) are good antihistamines for daytime itching, and rarely cause drowsiness. Diphyenhydramine (generic Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine are good choices for bedtime. Any of these should cost under $10. A tube of 1% hydrocortisone cream is only a few bucks.
Some people don’t like the red bumps and blisters or streaks that poison ivy causes. This is largely a cosmetic issue. Hydrocortisone cream will help mild to moderate symptoms.
3. Seek professional care. If your doctor knows you well, he or she may be willing to treat you over the phone with either a cream (for localized areas of moderate to severe rash) or call in a prescription for a steroid. Prescription steroid creams run from $4 to over $100. The $4 betamethasone cream should work just fine, so you may want to request it. Steroid pills run $4 to $10 for a week or two of treatment. However, your doctor may want to see you first to confirm the diagnosis. Some patients like steroid shots, which take effect maybe 12 hours more quickly than pills. If that’s worth an extra $50 bucks or so, go ahead and request a shot. Otherwise, get the $4 medicine and spend the rest on a nice evening out.
In addition to a steroid preparation, the topical treatments and antihistamines in Option #2 above provide relief for the first few days until the rash starts clearing up.
If the rash happens to become infected, ask for an antibiotic on the $4 list – cephalexin and erythromycin or good choices for skin infections, and sometimes sulfa drugs.
For more information on poison ivy, visit: http://ezinearticles.com/?Poison-Ivy—5-Tips-For-Effective-Treatment&id=4491241
When I suffer intolerable itching and just HAVE to scratch, I find a hairbrush provides greater relief and causes less damage – but don’t tell anyone a doctor said so.
Of course you don’t want to scratch blistered areas. Some patients find pouring alcohol on the rash helpful – the pain is more tolerable than the itch. A cool bath can be soothing and hot water should be avoided – but again, some people find running hot water over the rash hurts enough to relieve the itch.
If you’re unsure about recognizing the poison ivy plant, click here.
© Cynthia J Koelker, MD – All rights reserved