Common Illnesses

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy causes contact dermatitis or itching skin rash to those who are sensitive to the oleoresin in the plant. The peak season is in spring when the plants are tender. Poison Ivy can be recognized by the glossy green leaves, which grow in groups of three. It generally grows as a low shrub, but can be a trailing vine.

On first contact, you may not have a reaction. Once sensitivity is established, the rash appears in seven to 14 days with subsequent exposures causing a reaction within six hours to 12 days.

The skin reaction begins with itching and redness, with bumps and blisters soon occurring. The various timing of the blisters give the appearance of the rash spreading, however, once the oleoresin has been washed off the skin, it will no longer spread. The rash may take two to four weeks to clear.


  • Wash exposed skin, clothing, etc.
  • Cool water compresses to relieve itch
  • Warm salt water compresses (1/2 tsp salt to 1 pint of water) applied four times a day will help dry weeping blisters. Domeboro solution may be helpful. Use as directed. This is available in drug stores without a prescription.
  • Calamine lotion will help dry small blisters and relieve itching
  • Oral antihistamines help relieve itch. Benadryl 25-50 mg, four times a day or Chlor-trimeton eight mg, four times a day.
  • Avoid scratching rash as this may lead to infection
  • For extensive involvement or rash that is near the eyes a prescription cortisone may be necessary

Call Student Health Services at x4991 for more information.