Poison ivy, oak, and sumac can be crazy-making; with an incessant itch and unsightly rash, desperation for the end of this misery does not make you melodramatic. In the midst of a serious scratching session, you inaudibly mutter, “when will this end”?
Thankfully, poison ivy dermatitis generally resolves within a couple of weeks without treatment. However, for many people, the irritation is intense enough that “sucking it up” doesn’t quite work ( self compassion works better anyway) and poison ivy treatments are sought.
A variety of treatments exist to address poison ivy, oak, and sumac. In most cases, a doctor’s visit is not necessary in treating this condition. However, symptoms do vary, and in more severe instances, ( i.e. widespread and persistent rash, or a severe allergic reaction) immediate medical attention may be needed. Common over-the-counter poison ivy medications include topical treatments and oral antihistamines. The most commonly used topical products are calamine lotion and hydrocortisone ( a low potency steroid) to help reduce the itch. While these topicals may help reduce itching, they are only of use to a person who has already developed poison ivy, as they can neither prevent nor lessen the spread of poison ivy. The fact that these products can solely mitigate existent symptoms of poison ivy can be considered a downside by some. Additionally, since these treatments only focus on helping get rid of the itch and do not actively nourish the skin to accelerate healing, this can be seen as another disadvantage.
Oral antihistamines (i.e. diphenhydramine) are sometimes used to lessen the severity of allergic reactions due to poison ivy, oak, and sumac, which can also help reduce the itching. However, taking oral antihistamines can make a person feel sleepy. While this side effect may actually sound appealing to some, especially those who intend to use it as a temporary “poison ivy relief- sleep aid,” feeling drowsy right before bed does not guarantee quality sleep through the night. In fact, an antihistamine pill can stick around in your system and actually make you feel more groggy the next day. While some people find that these over-the-counter products can help them sleep better, there is limited research on their effectiveness.
At the end of the day, doing your due diligence is important, as is carefully deciding what you subject your skin to and allow into your body. Empower yourself by exploring the options and then select the best and healthiest route for you.
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