What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

While spending time outdoors can be a favorite pastime, there are some dangers to keep in mind. One of the most important dangers to be aware of is poison ivy plants. Most people will have an encounter with poison ivy at some point in life. When it comes to this dangerous plant, you may think you know what to look for and how to avoid contact, but many people develop the rash without realizing they were even near a poison ivy plant. How does this happen? What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

The reason many people develop the poison ivy rash without realizing they have been in contact is because of the oils emitted from the plant. These powerful oils are clear and mostly odorless so they would be nearly impossible to detect on clothing, shoes, or other items that may have brushed up against a plant. It can even be in the coat of your pet leaving them unharmed but potentially hurting you. While you may have been careful to avoid poison ivy, you may come in contact with someone carrying the oils on them. If a person is wearing an unwashed hiking jacket with the oils on it and you touch it, you may develop the painful rash. The oils from poisonous plants can remain active for years meaning it has the potential to cause the rash repeatedly if the surface is not properly cleaned.

Since it is harder than simply staying away from plants with three leaves, the place to focus the attention is on limiting exposure to poison ivy plants, especially the oils. How do I fight an enemy I can’t see? What do I do after poison ivy exposure?

The best way to be safe is to take extra precautions. If your pet has recently been outdoors and has the potential to have come in contact with the plant, promptly bathe them while wearing protective gloves. Always wash clothing immediately after being in areas prone to poison ivy plants such as hiking trails and wooded areas. If you suspect you may have had exposure to the plant, it is recommended to promptly take a shower and thoroughly clean with soap in hopes of preventing the rash. Do not use warm or hot water as this may cause the oils to spread and become more active resulting in a more severe rash. Coldwater will clean the body while the soap removes the oils. It is also a safe bet to apply a topical skin barrier or rubbing alcohol to help prevent the oils from sinking into the skin.

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