For those who have had the misfortune of coming into contact with poison ivy, it’s an experience you would just as soon forget.
The contributing factor from the mild to severe reaction is an oil within the plant called urushiol . The more of your skin that comes into contact with this oil, the more severe the reaction. This oil can remain on items such as clothes and tools long after exposure and can cause new outbreaks.
The most tell-tale sign that you have come into contact with poison ivy is an itchy, blistering rash. Often the rash can be treated at home, but if it is severe and you are experiencing the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
- rash is covering your face or genitals
- rash is covering a large areas of your body
- nothing eases the itchiness and discomfort
If a doctor’s visit is required than in most cases a prescription steroid, usually prednisone is given which will begin to clear up the rash quickly.
To Treat the Rash at Home with Over the Counter Medicine
- Wash the area with cold, soapy water or a product dedicated to the removal of poison ivy oil such as Zanfel. This product works extremely well in removing the oil from the skin. Zanfel also stops the itching caused by the plant.
- Apply calamine lotion or a hydro-cortisone cream as indicated on the product label.
- If the rash covers more of your body, soak in an oatmeal bath (see oatmeal remedy below).
- Take an antihistamine to help reduce itching. By scratching less you will decrease the chance of infection from open blisters.
- Be sure to wash all clothing and other surfaces that may have come into contact with the oil well. This includes garden tools, pet leashes, gloves and so forth. Eliminating the oil as soon as possible will prevent another occurrence from the same incident.
- Another product that works well in not only removing the oil from your skin, but also clothes and tools is called Tecnu.
Natural Poison Ivy treatment
- Oatmeal – An oatmeal bath is another wonderful remedy for blistered or irritated skin, since oatmeal works as a skin protectant. (No, you do not have to pour a box of oatmeal into the tub.) The easiest (and least messy) way to benefit from the oatmeal is to fill a nylon stocking with oatmeal, tie the end closed and let the water run over it as you fill the tub.
- Baking soda – A paste of baking soda and water can work great for a poison ivy rash. Re-apply the application every 2 hours for up to 3 applications per day. A baking soda bath can also help before bed.
- Jewelweed – A plant that has been used for centuries by Native Americans and herbalists. It usually grows near poison ivy and can be found along river beds. It works by counter-reacting with the chemicals in other plants that cause irritation. Soaps and lotions can be used with Jewelweed as the main ingredient.
Identifying Poison Ivy
When walking in the woods, it is important to know what Poison Ivy looks like. It grows as a shrub in some areas of the United States and Canada, while in other areas it grows as a vine. Vine or shrub, the identifying characteristics are the same. Each leaf is made up of three leaflets, which excrete the oil when touched. (All parts of the plant contain the oil, so avoid contact if at all possible.) On larger vines another tell tail sign is the root system, which produce hair like leaders that attach to trees and rocks.
In the fall season poison ivy stands out more so, especially in low growing areas because of the change in leaf color from green to bright yellow and red. A good rule of thumb to remember is, Leaves of three – let it be!
Prevention is Best
In order to avoid the discomfort and inconvenience suffered from Poison Ivy, avoiding the plant is the best measure. If you know you will be walking in areas where it is found, take the following steps:
- Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves, gloves, long pants and boots.
- Apply an ivy block barrier. This works much the same as sunscreen, and must be applied prior to venturing out. This does not guarantee you won’t get a rash, so be sure to cover up with protective clothing as well. Being properly dressed works as an additional barrier against poison ivy.
If you happened to have this problem causing plant in or around your property it’s best to stop it in its tracks asap. You can learn about some very effective organic & chemical weed killers in this article.
Spending time in the outdoors is fun! Take the above measures to avoid Poison Ivy and you will not regret it. If you do have a brush with the plant, try to treat it as soon as possible to avoid excessive discomfort.