Most of the time poison ivy can be safely treated at home, but there are some situations when you will need to seek urgent medical care. According to the American Skin Association, about 85% of people in the United States are allergic to poison ivy, and about 10-15% are extremely allergic, which means their reactions are more severe and perhaps life-threatening.
If you do come in contact with poison ivy, it’s important to wash the area completely with rubbing alcohol followed by mild soap and water to completely remove the urushiol residue (oily liquid or sap located on the leaves of poison ivy). Urushiol is the main culprit of an allergic reaction, so it’s important to remove as much as possible within 10 minutes of contact to reduce the severity of the reaction.
However, if you unknowingly come in contact with poison ivy, or are unable to clean the area quickly, you may experience a larger or more severe reaction, which puts you at a higher risk of infection. If this happens to you, it’s important to have a medical doctor examine your poison ivy; urgent care facilities are equipped to manage and treat allergic reactions safely and quickly.
Six poison ivy symptoms that require urgent medical care
If you experience one or more severe allergic reactions, call 911 or go to the nearest urgent care facility:
- Severe swelling around the rash area
- Swelling of the lips and tongue
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Mild to moderate cases of poison ivy may need urgent medical care if one or more of the following symptoms occur:
- The rash covers your face, lips, eyes, mouth or genitals
- The rash covers more than a quarter of your body’s surface
- At-home treatments do not relieve the rash or itch
Avoid the urge to scratch to avoid infection
A poison ivy skin rash often comes with uncomfortable, itchy blisters. While it may feel good to scratch your itch, it leads to breaks in the skin that can become infected. If you develop any of these signs or symptoms of an infection, visit your nearest urgent care facility right away:
- Pus or discharge from the skin
- An odor coming from the fluid in the blisters
- Increasing redness around the affected area
- Increasing pain around the wound
- Fatigue and malaise
If you’re experiencing a severe reaction to poison ivy, urgent care should be your next stop. An urgent care doctor can prescribe an oral corticosteroid like Prednisone or a maximum-strength steroid cream like Temovate to help you feel better fast. Visit Coastal Urgent Care of Baton Rouge 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, walk-ins welcome.