Four Very Effective Home Remedies for Poison Ivy
What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?
About Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is the general term for poison ivy, oak or sumac. These plants secrete an oil called urushiol. Urushiol sinks into the skin very quickly and once it does, it produces contact allergic dermatitis. This is a fancy way of saying urushiol produces terrible skin rashes.
Poison ivy rash is insanely itchy. The peculiar itch caused by urushiol is instantly recognized by anyone who has ever had a poison ivy, oak or sumac rash. The itch is intense. It will wake you from your sleep. It will drive you mad. You cannot stop scratching this itch.
At first, the patch of skin where the oil has penetrated will look quite normal and no one will understand the horrible itch emanating from the area. In about 24 to 48 hours, the skin will start to redden and produce bumps that itch so badly that you will wish for a wire bristled brush to scratch with. It is impossible to scratch deep enough to satisfy the urge to scratch deeper.
In a few days, the bumps may turn to blisters which "weep" a clear liquid that dries to a yellowish, or amber colored scab. The blister may form a line going in the direction that the plant brushed your skin.
Eventually, the blisters clear up, the itch goes away and you will be amazed that the whole ordeal did not leave a visible scar. However, the experience has left a huge scar in your mind. You will never want to get near a plant again.
What Does Poison Ivy Rash Look Like?
How Do You Get Poison Ivy?
Camping, hiking and walking through the woods are the most popular ways to get poison ivy. Sensitive individuals may also get poison ivy from animals that have roamed through the brush. Anything that touches a poison ivy, oak or sumac plant may carry the oil away with them.
Since urushiol is one of the most potent allergic compounds on earth, the oil may be transferred from plants, animals and clothing. If you step on a plant, you will get the oil on your shoes. When you take off your shoes, you will get the oil on your hands. When you touch your face, arms or legs, you will spread the oil to those body parts. The oil may be on your clothes. When you remove your clothes, you may spread the oil to your body.
Once the oil has contacted skin, the absorption begins. If you do not shower quickly (within five minutes), the oil will already be causing an allergic response. The oil causes a rash wherever it contacts the skin and is absorbed.
Contrary to popular belief. Poison ivy rash does not spread once you have the rash. The oil has already been absorbed and the rash is caused by the allergic reaction from your body. You can still get the urushiol by handling shoes and clothing. You can also get some more of the oil from a pet. The rash itself does not spread.
Urushiol is so potent that one quarter of an ounce of pure urushiol is enough to cause a rash on every man, woman and child on the earth! The strength of the allergic reaction varies from person to person, but even on people that say they are not affected by poison ivy will develop a rash from direct application of urushiol.
Even people that appear to have no or mild reactions to poison ivy (urushiol) may someday have a moderate or severe reaction to the oil. Rashes are so debilitating that they are covered by worker's compensation rules in the state of California. California and the upper North West are invaded by these woodsy plants.
Use an ordinary hair dryer to immediately stop the itch of poison ivy, oak, or sumac
What is the Cure for Poison Ivy?
Prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially in the case of poison ivy and its urushiol. Avoid poison ivy, oak and sumac plants and you won't have a problem. Once you have the rash, there are a few home remedy treatments that are very effective, but there is no cure.
- If you are camping or walking in wooded areas, the first home remedy is soap and water. Wash everything as soon as possible. Separate the clothes you were wearing and wash them outside if possible. If you wear them inside, the oil may be transferred to furniture or bedding. Pretend your clothes are contaminated and treat them immediately. Remove shoes and clean them with disposable wipes. There is a special soap for urushiol removal, but regular soap works well.
- While there is no cure for the itch, there is a home remedy that works extremely well. A nurse in the emergency room told me about this one. Heat the itchy area by holding a hair dryer set on high while sweeping it back and forth across the skin part that is itching. You will feel a burning, stinging sensation. Don't burn yourself, you will be able to tell when the itch stops. This treatment lasts for hours and has the added benefit of drying out the weeping blisters.
- Alcohol and hydro-cortisone cream will prevent infection during dermatitis. Some people swear by this product or that product, but plain alcohol will clean, disinfect and cool the rash area. It seems that alcohol would hurt, but it actually feels good on a rash.
- Benadryl® or diphenhydramine, is the over the counter drug of choice for treating poison ivy, oak and sumac rashes. Since the rash is actually the result of an allergic reaction, then allergy pills will help. They also have the benefit of making you sleepy which will help with the healing process.
Home Remedies May Not be Enough
Sometimes people get such a severe reaction that treatment by a physician is necessary. The treatment of choice is steroids. Diabetics should avoid steroids and treat themselves with home remedies if at all possible.
Treating with a dose pack of steroids will clear up the rash fairly quickly. This treatment is only available by prescription and steroids are powerful drugs. They are not to be taken lightly. One must follow through with the entire dose pack to cure the allergic dermatitis.
Dermatologist Recommends Home Treatments for Poison Ivy
Have you ever had a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?
What did you do to treat it?
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 8
Is a washcloth good for poison ivy?
Yes, using cool soapy water gently on the rash area will clean off the urushiol irritant and skin bacteria that can cause a secondary infection.Helpful 5
How do you treat poison ivy on your scalp?
I would use the hair dryer method as described in this article as well as Benedryl (diphenhydramine).Helpful 3
© 2012 Lela