Poison ivy, other ailments going around the region - WNCT

Poison ivy, other ailments going around the region

We discovered some summertime ailments are popping up in the Tri-Cities in our What's Going Around segment. 

Dr. Adam Lewis from Mountain States Health Alliance's First Assist in Colonial Heights reports Sinus infections, strep throat, poison ivy, allergies, and a few cases of pink eye.

Dr. Anastasia Brown at Mountain State's First Assist Kingsport  says she's seeing some more of that stomach bug, also known as viral gastroenteritis, lots of poison ivy, sinusitis, allergies (in particular, many of complaints of "sinus headaches"), and ear infections.

Dr. Jared Hess of Wellmont Medical Associates in Bristol says,

"I have recently seen several cases of poison ivy dermatitis.  This typically appears as a "blistery" looking rash that itches.  It can then turn red around these blisters.  Things to try before seeing your doctor include:

1.  Washing the area thoroughly.

2.  Using Calamine or Caladryl on the rash.

3.  Using Benadryl as needed for itching.

If the rash is widespread or gets near the eyes and mouth, you should see your doctor.  Do not forget to wash the poison ivy oils off of tools such as garden shears, rakes, etc.  The oils can stay on these tools for months and give you a rash again."

 Dr. Sidney Gilbert, of Wellmont Medical Associates in Pennington Gap, Va., and Jonesville, Va. Reports:

"I am seeing a lot of seasonal allergies from all of the pollen. Typically, the symptoms are nasal congestion, nasal drainage, watering of the eyes, itching, sneezing. Patients should try Claritin (Loratidine), Allegra (Fexofenadine), and Zyrtec (Cetrizine). Benadryl can be sedating, so we try to keep away from it especially in the elderly, as it can cause confusion. Intranasal steroid medications such as Flonase or Nasonex can also help. I recommend that patients not use Afrin regularly (more than 3 days in a row), as it can cause rebound congestion after its use and sometimes dependency and can also cause damage to mucosa in your nose. Most of the above medications can be used over the counter. I would try these medications at home for a week or so and avoidance of known triggers.  If the symptoms are still no better or stay the same, the patient should come in to see a doctor for other types of prescription medications and sometimes get seen by an allergist/immunologist."

Here's a report from Dr. Melanie Skeen with Wellmont Medical Associates in Norton:

"Now that the weather has found us a wee bit better than last week, my patients have been busy as little bees in their gardens. Most of them, and I'm sure most of you, have been planting flowers, spreading mulch, staking tomatoes and pulling weeds. And this week it was as if the Poison Ivy Express drove around, picked up passengers and dropped them off at my office. One by one they came in, their calamine-covered skin scratched to ribbons after their various home remedies failed. Of all ailments, poison ivy probably has the most home remedies still in use today. This is most likely due to the sheer agony it inflicts - that maddeningly incurable ITCH!  Maybe the following can help get you some relief.

What is it?  Poison Ivy, poison oak, poison sumac are all from the genus of plants referred to as Toxicodendron, which, not surprisingly, means "poisonous tree". They all contain an oil in them called urushiol. This is the stuff that makes you break out if you come in contact with it.  You have all heard "leaves of three, let it be." This is a pretty good rule of thumb, as poison ivy and poison oak grow with three distinct leaves. Poison sumac, however, can grow with five to seven leaves.

Poison ivy dermatitis is a contact dermatitis which means you break out where it touches you.  If you have been sensitized to urushiol, that is, if you have come in contact with it before (urushiol is really strong stuff, it may only take one time) then you can react four to 96 hours after exposure to the plant. Most people older than 8 are sensitized so keep that in mind before you strip down to your Ninja Turtle boxers and roll around in a patch of poison oak to show everyone how "not allergic" you are. You will develop blisters with a red base that can form patches or develop in a linear or streak-like fashion and might cause swelling. This rash is intensely itchy!  Up to 40 million people seek medical treatment each year for reactions.

So what can you do at home? Wear long-sleeved protected clothing and long gloves when working outside. Remember pets can bring in the urushiol on their fur as well, so beware. Be aware of the plants and trees of your surroundings. Do not burn weeds to get rid of them. Burning poison ivy/oak can be dangerous. After working in poison ivy, immediately take off your clothes and wash them. Wash your hands and exposed skin in Dial soap. This will help wash off the oil and limit your exposure time. You only get outbreaks from exposure to the urushiol. Skin blisters are NOT contagious. You cannot catch poison ivy from someone else (unless, of course, they still have oil on their skin).

How can I treat it? I have heard a lot of home remedies. Don't use any of them!  Do not put bleach, lye, or turpentine on your rash. This is caustic to your skin and burns it on top of it having a rash. This is dangerous. Unfortunately, Benadryl will not help the itch. Benadryl is an antihistamine, and this itching is not being caused by histamine. You can go to the pharmacy and get Caladryl Clear or go to the hemorrhoid section and look for pramoxine cream. This can soothe the itch, and you can apply it four to five times a day. You can also get hydrocortisone cream over-the-counter and apply twice daily. This will help the inflammation. If your rash involves your face or your groin area, you should probably see your doctor."

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