What's Going Around: Poison ivy

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You’ve no doubt heard the old saying, “Leaves of three, let them be..." Those are wise words as we head into spring and summer.

Doctors at urgent centers said they were already seeing that poison ivy is What’s Going Around.

The flowering plant is notorious for triggering an allergic reaction in the form of an itchy and often irritating rash.

Once you or your child have been exposed it may be tempting to take bath to wash it off because the plant's oils bind to the skin. The oils are permanent until the body makes new skin in the area affected.

“It’s there until you make new skin. Our skin is constantly overturning so you’re making new skin about every three weeks," Dr. Mike Patrick, an Emergency Medicine expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said.

Your pets can pick up poison ivy too. It doesn’t bind to the animal’s skin but stays on their fur and doesn’t cause problems.

Be mindful that if they’ve been exposed and you pick them up or pet them you can get that oil on your hands and spread it to your body. If you’re exposed, take a shower—not a bath.

“If you were to take a bath in the first hour of exposure and that oil hasn’t bound to the skin permanently yet then it can float to the top of the water and spread to other areas, " Dr. Patrick said.

He recommends antihistamine medicines like diphenhydramine to treat the itching and swelling. If your rash is in one spot, the doctor said a topical steroid like hydrocortisone will help.

“If it’s widespread and especially if it’s on the face or the groin we do tend to use oral steroid medicine because it can get to more places," said Dr. Patrick.

One other reminder is that the oil from poison ivy can stay on all sorts of garden equipment, gloves, and tools. It means you can spread poison ivy from one season to the next so be sure to clean everything before and after use.