You may be familiar with the scene: You’re out there exploring and enjoying a grand hiking and camping adventure, or you’ve spent an amazing day in the garden when you realize you’ve broken out in a painful, itchy rash. There’s no mistaking it: you’ve come into contact with poison ivy. And while that can be a major drag, it can be doubly miserable if you’ve managed to touch the resin on the leaves and spread it to your eyes.
According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor in the department of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, the good news is that while the pain of having poison ivy in your eye can be significant, the should be able to heal and resolve without problems or damage to your vision.
But in any case, you’ll want to seek medical attention as soon as you can. “Because poison ivy around the eyes can lead to significant inflammation, I recommend touching base with your doctor early on,” he says. “In many cases, an oral medication to reduce inflammation might be necessary.”
If your face is swollen and one or both of your eyes swell shut, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. An
But typically, says Brian Kim, MD, co-director at the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, “this is not usually very serious unless you scratch the eye severely,” he says.
What to do until you get to a doctor
If you’ve managed to get poison ivy in your eye, chances are you spread it by touching your eye after having touched another affected area of your body. Until you get in to see a doctor, you’ll want to do your best to avoid touching and further irritating your eye area.
If the poison ivy shows up quickly after coming in contact with the plant, use gloves to remove your clothing to avoid getting the plant oil on them. Wash your hands and affected body parts with warm, soapy water. Hopefully you’re either prepared with treatments like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, or you’re close enough to home to be able to quickly obtain them. If you can find it at your local drug store, a colloidal oatmeal treatment may also be helpful, according to the AAD.
While you’re most likely going to be able to resolve an eye reaction without complications, it’s not going to be a fun experience. There are plenty of good reasons to try to keep your hands away from your eyes, and this is definitely one to add to the list.
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