Itchy-Itchy, Scratchy-Scratchy

September 21, 2017
Itchy-Itchy, Scratchy-Scratchy

Getting outside to enjoy these beautiful Fall days can be an itchy endeavor

Though the summer is over, Poison Ivy is still out there.  Here is some information to know before you head out to pick apples or jump in the falling leaves.

Poison Ivy is a classic plant known to cause an itchy rash in many patients

  • The itch is caused by oils from the poison ivy plant (called urushiol – this is the same type of oil that is on poison oak and poison sumac).
  • Only about half of all people have a reaction to this oil.


  1. Avoid touching the leaves of poison ivy plants (all year long! They can cause the rash even in the winter).  “leaves of 3, let it be.”
  2. Clothing, tools or animals that have the urushiol oil on it and can spread to your skin and cause rash without your actually touching the poison ivy plant.
  3. Wash skin with soap and water immediately (within 10 min) after any known exposure (be gentle, vigorous scrubbing can worsen the rash) – but even washing 2 hours later can decrease the severity of the rash.

Classic signs of the rash include:

  • Intense itching
  • Redness
  • Vesicles and bumps often in streaks where the plant has touched the skin.
  • Symptoms appear 4-96 hours after exposure
  • Symptoms usually resolve within 1-3 weeks
  • Complications may include the rash becoming infected with bacteria


  1. Cool, wet compresses, oatmeal baths may help
  2. Antihistamines like Benadryl do not help with the itch (however, they may help with sleep at night if child is so itchy they cannot sleep).
  3. Topical steroid ointments are not recommended for the skin
  4. If poison ivy is very severe, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids
  5. If secondary infection with a bacteria is suspected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.


For more information on Poison Ivy and treatment, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics

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