Leaves of Three, Let it Be! Use These Home Remedies to Dry Up and Relieve the Itch of Poison Ivy!
Who hasn't heard of the dreaded poison ivy plant? It is probably one of the most hated plants in the entire world. Did you know that approximately seven out of ten people are allergic to poison ivy making it the planet's most common allergy! Most people think it is the leaves of the plant that they are allergic to…when in fact, it is the urushiol oil. Huh? What in the world is that? Well, urushiol oil is actually an irritating resin that is found not only in poison ivy, but poison oak and poison sumac as well. For many people, all it takes is one quick touch or brush against one of these plants and BAM…within a matter of hours they break out in an annoying, itchy and often painful rash (blisters) that can last for weeks.
Unfortunately, you don't even need to touch an actual poison ivy plant to break out. How is that possible? Well, the resin that I told you about a few moments ago (urushiol) is able to travel. For example, if you are walking your dog in the woods and your dog just so happens to roll in or brush against some poison ivy, they can carry the urushiol on their fur. When you reach down to pet your dog, the urushiol transfers to you. That's all it takes! Urushiol can also travel on clothes. So the next time your kids come home after playing in the woods...wash their clothes immediately just to be safe!
Avoiding poison ivy is by far the best approach however, that is often easier said than done! If you have a keen eye and are familiar with what poison ivy actually looks like, then you are ahead of the game! If you KNOW that you have come into contact with poison ivy, it is very important that you WASH off the urushiol AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Do not pass go, do not collect $200! If you are far from home, no problem…simply head to the closest creek, stream or lake! If you brought water with you for drinking…use that. Trust me, when I say that being thirsty is far better than developing poison ivy! You can also use any beverage that contains alcohol. Sorry, to tell you this, but that beer you brought with you to the family picnic…well, it now has a new purpose. Once you have come into contact with poison ivy (and urushiol) you have approximately ten minutes to wash it off! The clock is ticking people and time is NOT on your side! If soap is available, use it, however, do NOT use a washcloth as a washcloth will only spread the poisonous urushiol to other parts of your body.
Home Remedies Can Provide Much Needed Relief!
If you are still reading this HUB then it is safe to assume that you were not able to wash off the urushiol in time and you now have a wonderful case of poison ivy. Sorry about that! Thankfully, there are many home remedies available that can help calm the itch and dry up the rash.
- Mooooo! For some reason, very cold milk is more soothing to the skin than cold water. Simply soak a cloth in some cold milk and hold it against your skin. Nobody knows why the cold milk brings much needed relief (some believe it is the milk fat) but who cares! If it relieves the itching…does it really matter!?
- Calamine lotion to the rescue! Most people I know (especially if they have kids) keep a bottle of calamine lotion in their medicine cabinet. Thankfully, calamine is now available in a clear form. Personally, I hate walking around with dried, pink circles on my legs and arms. In any event, simply dab some calamine onto the affected areas and allow it to dry. Calamine will relieve the itch and help to dry up the blisters. If the calamine you are using is too runny, simply mix it with some cornstarch and then apply.
- Vinegar, An Oldie but a Goodie! Vinegar is wonderful as it has many, many uses…including bringing much needed relief if you have poison ivy! Simply mix together equal parts of vinegar and water and then chill the mixture in the refrigerator for a while. Once cold, soak a cloth in the mixture and then hold the compress against the affected area. Simple, yet effective!
- Witch Hazel, a Classic! Witch hazel has been around for a long, long time and has many uses! Thankfully, soothing a bad case of poison ivy is one of them. Witch hazel is a wonderful way to soothe your skin. If you have poison ivy, I recommend that you use the type of witch hazel that contains alcohol as it will also cool your skin as it evaporates. Simply pour some witch hazel onto some cotton balls and then apply it to the affected areas (dab gently!). Repeat as necessary.
- Tea, Don't Drink It! Apply It! Tea contains tannic acid, which, by the way, is an astringent. Now you don't need to waste your expensive, fancy tea bags as any old type of tea will do. Moisten a tea bag with water and apply it to your skin. The tannic acid in the tea will help to not only contract inflamed tissue it will relieve the itching as well.
- Take a Swim in Some Oats! An oatmeal bath is a great way to not only dry up poison ivy blisters but to bring you some much needed itch relief as well! You can either purchase a colloidal oatmeal bath product such as Aveeno or you can simply use plain old Quaker Oats (which you probably already have on hand and is also a much cheaper alternative). If you go the Quaker Oats route, grind the oatmeal in a blender and add to your bath. Easy! One word of caution: oatmeal can cause a tub to become quite slippery…so be very careful when getting out! If you don’t have any oatmeal on hand, you can also bathe in Epsom salt. Epsom salt will also dry out poison ivy. Be sure to follow the directions that are on the box.
Obviously, the best way to deal with poison ivy is to NOT get it in the first place! I know, I know, easier said than done as the poison ivy plant has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it! Thankfully, there are other precautions you can take (I am a firm believer in being pro-active!). First of all, if you know that you are going hiking, walking or jogging in a wooded area wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt. I know, not ideal if it is hot outside, however, you can purchase special outdoor clothing that is made to breath, absorb moisture and is actually quite comfortable.
Another great idea is to purchase a plant identification book that is specific to the region in which you live. Take a few moments and get to know what poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak look like. Education is power my friends. Besides, a little book learning never hurt anyone!
Finally, there are products available to protect you from the all-mighty and powerful poison ivy plant! IvyBlock and Stokogard can be found at most outdoor enthusiast stores or online. These clay-like lotions protect your skin and actually form a protective barrier. Though it may try, the poisonous urushiol will not be able to get through!
An Apple a Day Does NOT Keep the Poison Ivy Away! Time to Visit a Doctor!
Unfortunately, some people are more allergic to poison ivy than others. According to the "Doctors Book of Home Remedies," approximately 15 percent of the 120 million Americans who are allergic to poison ivy are so highly sensitive that they break out in a rash (and severe blisters) within four to twelve hours. This is much faster than the average person. People who are highly allergic may also experience swelling of the eyes, severe blistering and possible breathing problems. If this is the case, it is extremely important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible as you will probably need steroids to reduce the swelling and help you breath! Again, if you have a severe reaction to poison ivy, seek medical attention as soon as possible!
Though catching a bad case of poison ivy is never fun (unless you enjoy blisters and itching), don't let it stand in your way and interfere with your outdoor activities. The key is to be proactive by learning to recognize what poison ivy looks like and by doing simple things such as wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts when trekking through heavily wooded areas. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have access to water or rubbing alcohol so that if you do come in contact with this, nasty, three-leafed beast…you will be prepared! Remember: Leaves of three, let it be! Good luck!