To prevent poison ivy rashes, follow these tips:

Avoid the plants

Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. When hiking or engaging in other activities that might expose you to these plants, try to stay on cleared pathways. If camping, make sure you pitch your tent in an area free of these plants.

Keep pets from running through wooded areas so that urushiol doesn't accidentally stick to their fur, which you then may touch. If you think your pet may be contaminated with urushiol, put on some long rubber gloves and give your pet a bath.

Remove or kill the plants

In your backyard, you can use an herbicide to get rid of poison ivy or use heavy gloves to carefully pull it out of the ground. Afterward, remove and wash your gloves and hands thoroughly. Don't burn poison ivy or related plants because the urushiol can be carried by the smoke.

Wash your skin

Gently washing off the harmful resin from your skin, using any type of soap, within five to 10 minutes after exposure may help avert a reaction. After an hour or so, however, the urushiol has usually penetrated the skin, and washing won't necessarily prevent a reaction, but it may help reduce its severity. Be sure to wash under your fingernails too.

Clean contaminated objects

Wearing long pants, socks, shoes and gloves will help protect your skin, but be sure to wash your clothing promptly with detergent — ideally in a washing machine — if you think you've come into contact with poison ivy. Handle contaminated clothes carefully so that you don't transfer the urushiol to furniture, rugs or appliances.

In addition, wash any other contaminated items — such as outdoor gear, garden tools, jewelry, shoes and even shoelaces — as soon as possible. Urushiol can remain potent for years. So if you put away a contaminated jacket without washing it and take it out a year later, the oil on the jacket may still cause a reaction.

Apply a barrier cream

Before potential exposure to poison ivy, you might want to try an over-the-counter skin cream containing bentoquatam (IvyBlock). Bentoquatam absorbs urushiol and prevents or lessens your skin's reaction to the oil.

Aug. 29, 2012

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