BRUSH WITH POISON IVY
Even a fleeting contact with poisonous leaves can mean weeks of intolerable itchiness. The culprit is urushiol (you- ROO-she-all), an oily resin in the plant's leaves and vines. Urushiol triggers an allergic reaction in 70 per cent of people. So unless you're among the 30 per cent who can shrug off urushiol, learn how to save your skin with these anti-ivy strategies.
... Prevent exposure by learning to recognize the plant. (Remember the rhyme "Leaves of three, let it be"?) The stem and vine are toxic even after the leaves have fallen off. Protect yourself with gloves, long sleeves, and pants. If you know you're headed into an ivy-infested area, cover any exposed skin with IvyBlock, a lotion containing a clay-like substance called bentoquatam that interferes with the absorption of urushiol.
... If exposed, immediately wash the affected area with soap and cold water. You have about 10 minutes to remove the urushiol before your immune system kicks in. No faucet in the backwoods? Find a creek or pond. And if possible, change your clothes; they've probably been contaminated, too, and could cause renewed itching.
... If a rash appears and the itch is mild, your best over-the counter choice is either calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream. In cases of extreme itch, your doctor may prescribe a the strong topical corticosteroid, or a 2-to 3-week tapered course of an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone, which works magic. Also, keep the rash clean and don't be afraid to blot weeping blisters; once the urushiol has been washed away, the rash won't spread.
... Take a "Dry soak" to relieve itchiness and remove crusted dead skin. Soak a T-shirt or pants (depending on where the rash is) in cool water, wring out the garment, and put it on over medicated skin. Layer a dry sweatshirt or sweatpants over top. The evaporation will be very soothing.
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