What is Systemic Poison Ivy?
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What is Systemic Poison Ivy?

Systemic poison ivy results from an extreme allergic reaction to the urushiol oil from the poison ivy plant. Normally, reactions to poison ivy result in rashes on the skin in a restricted area. The place where the oil touched the skin will normally rash up and then blister up before it dries out and goes away.

Systemic poison ivy results from an extreme allergic reaction to the urushiol oil from the poison ivy plant. Normally, reactions to poison ivy result in rashes on the skin in a restricted area. The place where the oil touched the skin will normally rash up and then blister up before it dries out and goes away.

The term, systemic, refers to a reaction that isn’t restricted to one area, but rather spreads throughout the body. Systemic poison ivy is a severe condition and must be treated aggressively. The most common reason for system reactions to poison ivy is by inhaling the fumes of burning poison ivy. Oftentimes, people will burn property that has poison ivy in it; this is a very dangerous thing to do because the urushiol oil goes into the air and can be inhaled. Even if you aren’t allergic to poison ivy, one of your neighbors could be; anyone who inhales the smoke of burning poison ivy could become gravely ill. If the urushiol oil enters the blood stream through the lungs, the inflammatory response could be life threatening. A systemic reaction can last for up to 5 weeks or more, depending on the patient’s ability to recover.

Symptoms of systemic poison ivy

Apart from the itching from bodily rashes, there are some other ways to detect systemic poison ivy. The symptoms of systemic poison ivy include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever and swollen lymph nodes. The person may also experience difficulty breathing due to inflammation in the lungs and bronchial system. Skin rashes ultimately convert into blisters during the final stage of the allergic reaction to poison ivy. The lesions may leak for weeks before they dry up. Many people are afraid that the liquid that oozes from the blisters will cause poison ivy to develop on anyone who might come into contact with the secretions. There is no need to worry about getting a poison ivy rash, because the blisters are not infectious because the oozing liquid does not contain urushiol oil in it. The main danger is the person with the blisters might get an infection from the open lesions.

Treatment for systemic poison ivy

It is very important that a person who is suspected of having a systemic reaction to poison ivy to get medical help fast. There could be a possibility that the person will have difficulty breathing due to swelling and inflammation to the respiratory tract. The doctor will most likely prescribe prednisone and other medications for the treatment for systemic poison ivy. The patient may also be given steroid injections to deal with the systemic inflammation. The individual will most likely be put on a descending dose of steroid medication; the dosage slowly tapers off each day until the round of medication is completed.

Doctors usually suggest that extra steps should be taken while taking care of systemic poison ivy in children. It can be very difficult for children to stop scratching. Children’s fingernails should be trimmed and their hands should be kept clean to prevent infection. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be given to relieve the discomfort from itching. Over-the-counter medications may be administered to relieve the itching from rashes; for instance, Calamine lotion can be applied topically for temporary relief of itching. Children and adults should wear loose clothing to prevent discomfort.

Wikimedia/Chris Light

How to Avoid Poison Ivy

The best way to avoid poison ivy is to learn how to identify the plants, not only poison ivy but also sumac. When hiking, fishing, hunting or any other out door activities, stay on the normal paths instead of walking through the woods or brush. When setting up a camp site, make sure it is free of poison ivy. Also, keep your dogs on a leash and do not let them get into the woods, because the urushiol oil can get on the dogs fur and then when you touch your dog, you can then get an allergic reaction. If your pet gets into poison ivy, wash their fur within 30 minutes or as soon as possible. When hiking, it is best to wear long pants, socks and long sleeves.

This will limit the possibility of touching poison ivy with your skin. Sometimes we might find poison ivy in our yards; the best thing to do is wear gloves and remove the plants. This can be done by using an herbicide like Roundup or similar products. If you use your hands to pull out the plants, make sure you use good gloves. Never touch your eyes after dealing with poison ivy, and wash your hand thoroughly after pulling the pants, throwing them away, touching your clothes or washing your pet.

Clean all garden tools after digging up the plants and throw them away, never burn the poison ivy plants, because the smoke can cause a great deal of irritation, not only to you, but also your neighbors.

Clean all clothing that might have come into contact with the poison ivy, also clean furniture and carpeting that was in contact with your clothes or your pets. You can also use a barrier cream that can help prevent your skin from coming into contact with the urushiol oil of poison ivy. You can barrier cream at stores like Walgreens.


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Comments (3)

Great write! I learnt something new from you, thanks!

It was funny, I thought your article was about plants but i was wrong. Never heard about it before. Very informative and useful.

I know some about poison ivy but I guess I was thinking about a different one. Very informative one. Thanks.