Q. While working in the yard, I was infected with poison ivy. Can you tell me the best treatment for it?
A. There are few things more irritating than an allergic reaction to poison ivy. About half of us will develop red blisters and intense itching when exposed to the oils in this plant. If the rash develops on your face or genitals, you will want to see your doctor promptly.
The immediate concern is relief from the terrible itching this reaction provokes. You should take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, to help relieve the itching as soon as you realize you’re having a reaction. Since Benadryl can make you sleepy, you will want to switch to a non-drowsy antihistamine for daytime use, such as Claritin or Zyrtec. Use topical lotions such as calamine, and get aluminum acetate soaks – called Domeboro soaks – from your drugstore to use as a poultice to sooth the itching. These can also be used in your bath if the reaction is widespread, as can oatmeal. Avoid using Vaseline, Neosporin or other lotions as they can sometimes actually make the itching worse. You may need to call your doctor to get a steroid lotion, which will help relieve the reaction.
After the itching has calmed down, make sure to keep the area clean to avoid any infection. If these remedies don’t work, steroid pills may help reduce the allergic reaction.
Teresa Baysden, D.O.
Chattanooga Primary Care, a Memorial Health Partner
1017 Executive Drive, Suite 101
Hixson, TN 37343