Poison Ivy Eguide
How do you know if it’s Poison Ivy?
There are a number of different rhymes to help you identify poison ivy. Here are a few. Remember that poison ivy is everywhere and looks like other stuff so when it doubt, stay away.
- Leaves of three, let it be, leaves of four, eat some more
- Hairy vine, no friend of mine.
- Berries white, run in fright.
- Berries white, danger in sight.
What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed
If you’ve been exposed to poison ivy, oak or sumac, quick action is essential. Immediately flush the area with COLD water. Don’t use warm or hot water as this will allow pores to open and cause the urushiol to seep right in. Since urushiol is an oil, use as harsh a soap as you can, dish soap works good to wash the area. Alcohol may be effective for removing the oil as well, however opinions vary. Getting the oil off quickly will save you from the majority of the rash. Whatever you use, it is important to get the urushiol off as soon as possible, after much more than an hour, it’s too late.
Since the rash from poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are allergic reactions; the rashes can vary widely from one person to another. Some people have no reaction at all while others react so severely they require immediate medical attention. The rash will generally show up 24 to 48 hours after exposure, however some people who have severe reactions, will break out in a serious blistered rash and swell up within a couple of hours. This can be a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. This will require a trip to the emergency room.
If you do break out in a rash there are a number of things you can try, some may work better than others and it will take a little trial and error to find some relief.
There are a couple of lines of traditional products designed to specifically treat the itch, while drying up the weeping rash of poison ivy. While these provide marginal relief, DermaTechRx recommends the use of the All Stop™ Poison Ivy Healing Gel to treat poison ivy. To learn more about the All Stop™ brand of products, visit the All Stop™ Poison Ivy treatment webpage.
Hydrocortisone creams are often recommended for the itch, but many people find that they aren’t very effective. There are also poison ivy kits on the market which include a wash and an itch relieving spray. Many of these items are similar to one another, so it will take some experimentation to see what works best for you.
Antihistamine pills and creams may also be helpful. The cream is applied directly to the rash and the pill can fight the reaction from the inside. Be careful as they may cause marked drowsiness. The main ingredient in most over the counter antihistamines and over the counter sleeping pills are the same. It’s called Diphenhydramine. Use caution when driving.
Another popular plant for relieving itching is aloe vera however works marginally for the poison ivy itch. This is especially popular in the desert southwest, where the plant grows with little effort. You can also mash up some of the flesh of the plant to get more of the gel out, but again, be careful of the barbs.
Bathing in cool salt water, such as the ocean, can help speed the repairing process. Salt will dry out the weeping and the cool water will feel very soothing. If you can’t go for a swim in the ocean, duplicate it in the bath tub. Add lots of sea salt (Dead Sea salt is even better if you have it), kelp and baking soda to a cool bath and enjoy.
Never scratch the rash, no matter how much it itches! It can lead to serious scarring and you will end up in a vicious itch/scratch cycle. Once you start scratching, you’ll cause more irritation to the skin, and the more you irritate the skin the more it will itch.
How to Avoid Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
The best way to avoid the itching, burning, and blisters associated with poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac is to avoid the plants altogether. Learn what poison ivy looks like and where it thrives. If you think you may have been exposed, shower and wash skin and hair immediately.
When going outdoors, wear long pants, long sleeves, socks and high boots to protect skin from contact. There are also protective barrier lotions and sprays available at many outdoor stores. If you are out camping or backpacking, wash clothes and shoes (including laces) in soap and water as soon as possible. If you can handle the items with rubber gloves (the tall kitchen kind are even better) that is great. It will keep your hands from coming in contact with contaminated surfaces, as urushiol can remain on items for years without drying out or losing potency.
Most animals, such as dogs are not susceptible to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, but they can carry the urushiol on their skin and fur, and transmit it to you. So if you think your pet has gotten into a patch of poisonous nuisance plants, bathe them in cold water and the harshest soap you can as soon as possible.
WARNING: If you come in contact with poison ivy, and within 6 hours develop a severe rash that swells and blisters, or you have difficulty seeing, breathing or swallowing, head to the Emergency Room immediately! This can be a very serious, and possibly life threatening reaction called Anaphylaxis.
As a note, this guide is meant to be informative only. It is not meant to take the place of qualified medical attention. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.