Poison Ivy - Don't Pass It On!


I am a 42-year-old housewife, and I have poison ivy that I am blaming on my husband. He worked in the yard Sunday morning; and when he showered, left his clothes on the bathroom floor. Well, guess who picked up his poison ivy clothes and put them in the washing machine? He said I blame him for everything; and you cannot get poison ivy from his yard clothes, even if covered with poison ivy oil. Is it possible that my husband is correct for the first time in our 18 years of marriage?


No, it is not possible that he is correct. Poison ivy and its relatives, poison sumac and poison oak, contain a potent poison ivy oil called urushiol. It is the most common allergic contact rash and can occur at any age. It takes direct contact to develop the allergic rash. Direct contact can result from contact with the leaves or vines; however, it can become airborne with trimming, mowing or burning poison ivy plants.

The oil is very stable and can easily survive on unwashed clothing that has come in contact with poison ivy. Poison ivy oil is destroyed by soap and water, whether on the body in the shower or on clothing in the washing machine. The solution, in your case, would be for your husband to take yard clothing off and place it in the washing machine, then take a shower with soap and water. If the poison ivy oil touched his skin, the sooner he washes with soap and water the better. Remember, poison ivy rashes can develop within 24 hours or as late as 10 days after the exposure.

The red, itchy, and/or blistering rash of poison ivy is not contagious. You can treat the poison ivy rash with cool compresses, oral Benadryl or other antihistamines for the itching and applying over-the-counter cortisone cream or calamine lotion. Severe cases of poison ivy require a visit to the dermatologist. There are prescription medications and injections available to treat cases of poison ivy. In the future, your husband will learn that perhaps hiring someone to do the yard work is less aggravation in the long run.

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