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The dreaded three – poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac

Photo: Poison ivy plants.

Lots of poison ivy plants.

The early weeks of summer are finally here, and the temperatures are just right to enjoy the great outdoors here in North Texas. But you have suddenly developed a concerning rash. Could it be from one of the dreaded three—poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac?

It may be difficult to know at first since a reaction to one of these plants may take anywhere from 12 hours to 10 days to appear! Poison Ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain a sticky oil called urushiol. When you touch or brush up against any part of these plants (even dead ones) or touch anything that has come in contact with them, you can suffer from an allergic reaction to this oil. So even if you haven’t been walking through greenery, you may still have come in contact with urushiol. If so, you will eventually know by your reaction to it—redness, itching, swelling, bumps, and blisters!

To help with the itch, apply compresses soaked in cool water followed by a topical antihistamine, over-the-counter corticosteroid (hydrocortisone), or topical anesthetic like menthol, benzocaine, or pramaxine. You may also take an oral antihistamine. When the blisters appear, there are a number of over-the-counter products that can help dry them up including aluminum acetate, aluminum hydroxide gel, calamine, kaolin, zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, and zinc oxide. You may also want to try a baking soda and/or oatmeal bath.

The rash can last a long time—from 10 days all the way up to 6 weeks in severe cases, so don’t suffer needlessly! At Hillcrest Medical, we can properly diagnose and help you treat your condition. And come and see us immediately if your swelling and blistering are severe, your eyes swell shut and/or you have trouble breathing!

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