Getting exposed to poison ivy is bad news. For most people, they end up getting contact dermatitis, which basically means you’re going to get a rash and start getting really itchy. The stuff that makes poison ivy so bad is an oil called urushiol, which comes out of all parts of the plant. If you ever find yourself in contact with the plant but don’t develop any rash or itchiness, then consider yourself lucky because 85% of people will get contact dermatitis the moment they touch poison ivy.
For those who fall within the 85%, don’t fret. There are a lot of remedies that can immediately relieve you of the nightmare that is a poison ivy rash.
To avoid poison ivy is to know what it looks like. You’d be surprised at how common the plant can be, and it can even be hard to spot sometimes, so its easy for a person to accidentally touch this rather mean plant? However, it’s easy to identify poison ivy if you know how.
Poison ivy comes in two forms: a shrub and a vine. In the western parts of the US and Canada, it is usually a shrub. In the East, South, and Midwest, it’s a shrub. Regardless of its form, the leaves will always have three leaflets with each leaf having smooth or notched edges. It’s usually green in the summer but turns orange or reddish in fall or spring. During winter, the leaves fall off, leaving only the hairy parts of the vine.
Remember: When in doubt, don’t touch the plant. You’re better safe than sorry.
Let’s say you’ve been careful and you end up getting contact dermatitis anyway. Now what? First, you can rest easy knowing that it’s nothing permanent. The rash will eventually clear up on its own, but as it can be such a pain to deal with (it can even cause sleep deprivation), you’re better off finding a way to help soothe your discomfort or even recover much faster.
Poison ivy remedies:
· Rubbing alcohol – This can be used to remove the urushiol oil that is on your skin, significantly lessening the discomfort and preventing the condition from getting any worse. This is the closest thing you’ll get to immediate treatment to poison ivy rash. In fact, people should do this within the first 10 minutes they come into contact with the plant. For obvious reasons, it’s very important to bring rubbing alcohol when you go hiking or camping. It’s also a good idea to bring alcohol wipes, since they’re easy to pull out and use when the need arises. Keep in mind that urushiol doesn’t just stick to the skin. Some of it can get on your belongings, which can then give you rashes when you touch them. Make sure you have rubbing alcohol for disinfecting your stuff as well.
· Take a shower – Like most oils, urushiol can be removed with water, so if you have access to it, this could be the most effective way to remove any of the oils stuck to you even before they react to your skin. Some say that showering within an hour after exposure to poison ivy can significantly limit and reduce the rash. Meanwhile, there are those who say that it’s important to still apply rubbing alcohol for good measure.
· Apply a cold compress – A cool compress an be used to reduce most of the itching caused by poison ivy. It will also suppress any inflammation on the skin that might occur. It’s really easy to make too. Just take a clean washcloth and run it under cold water. Wring out most of the excess water before applying it to the skin for about 15 to 30 minutes. Do this throughout the day as often as needed. To improve the effectiveness of the compress, you can try soaking it in an astringent of your choice. Some pretty good ones include apple cider vinegar, chilled black tea, and aluminum acetate.
·Baking soda – While commonly used for as a baking ingredient, baking soda is sometimes used as a cleaning agent and even as a home remedy for all kinds of illnesses. The disinfecting and cleaning properties of baking soda are what allows it to combat the effects of poison ivy exposure, giving you instant relief. You can do this by adding some baking soda to your bath before soaking in it.
· Oatmeal – If you’re not up for baking soda, try an oatmeal bath. The stuff is rich in antioxidants and is used to soothe the skin from all kinds of inflammatory conditions. Apply oatmeal to a lukewarm bath and soak in the tub for about 30 minutes and you’ll immediately start to feel better.
· Of course, there are over the counter solutions to poison ivy rashes. Many drug stores have all kinds of lotions and creams to help relieve the symptoms of poison ivy rash, the most common of which are calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams. There are also oral medications such as antihistamines that act to reduce the effects of the allergic reaction. This also provides great relief from the itchiness you might experience whilst lessening the rash.
· Aside from these over-the-counter medications, there are also certain types of medication that your doctor can prescribe you. One such drug is the steroid, which can come either as a cream, lotion, tablet, gel and even an injection. In some cases, you might be prescribed antibiotics just to avoid infections in case you get blisters from scratching your skin.
· In any case, always consult your doctor before taking medication for poison ivy rashes. Be on the lookout for situations where the rash is near the most sensitive parts of your body, like the mouth, eyes, or even the genitals.
In other situations, you might need medical intervention if the condition hasn’t improved over seven to ten days. Signs of infection such as pus or scabs should also alert you to see a doctor.
Avoid scratching the affected skin. It’s tempting, but scratching might cause you to hurt yourself more and can even cause wounds that might be prone to infection. If you must relieve yourself of itchiness, try to not use your nails. Instead, just lightly rub your hand against the itchy part until it goes away. Better yet, try any one of the remedies mentioned above! You’ll definitely feel better right away.