Poison ivy may trigger an allergic reaction that isn’t a serious risk for most but can be terribly itchy, produce blisters and red, painful swelling. Some react more strongly to it than others with a lucky few not affected by it at all (one may also become desensitized to it after repeated exposures).
Why does this happen? The plant produces urushiol (a resin or type of oil) and when it touches skin, the body reacts.
Here are a few soothing ways to treat the itch and rash plus some tips at the bottom.
*These remedies are also effective treating Poison Oak
Initial Treatment After Exposure
Dissolve either soap, generous amounts of salt or meat tenderizer in a basin of water then wash the affected area to remove any traces of the urushiol (especially helpful if done within the first 30 minutes of contact).
Once the residue has been washed off, and if done quickly after first touching, you may get lucky and have no reaction at all!
If itching, redness or rash, blistering or painful swelling occurs during the next 48 hours, try one of the following for relief…
Home Remedies For Poison Ivy
- Baking Soda Bath: Use lots of baking soda and temperature as hot as tolerable.
- Epsom Wrap: To help ease itching, dip a clean cloth in a strong solution of Epsom salts & water, arrange the cloth over the area and bandage.
- Mint Tea Bath: Add handfuls of freshly picked mint or a few bags of peppermint tea, let “steep” for a few minutes before submerging body in water to soak. Another remedy is to make a batch of “Tea” by brewing a pot of strong peppermint tea, allow it to cool. Next, soak cloths in tea and apply as a cool compress (alternative: cotton balls to dab). Regular tea can also be helpful (make it strong and chill first before using).
- Jewelweed Infusion: Harvest the “sap” from a broken stem of jewelweed and spread over affected flesh…Alternative: fill a pot with the herb (including stems & flowers), submerse in water and bring to a boil. Simmer until liquid has been reduced by half. Strain, refrigerate and use topically on the body. Another good idea is to freeze into ice cubes or small packs and use as needed so if you have a bunch growing nearby, stock up on it during harvest season and prepare a batch to use year round.
- Apple Cider Vinegar & Oatmeal: Add 1 cup of each to a bath and soak. Alternative: Try dabbing apple cider vinegar on outbreak for relief.
- Oatmeal Paste: Mix water and oatmeal to make a paste, apply to area. Allow to dry before reapplying.
- Mint Lard Salve: Roughly tear a handful of catnip (alternative: mint leaves), toss into a pan and add a half block of lard. Melt over medium heat then reduce to low and let slowly cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, secure lid and allow to cool for awhile. While the lard is somewhat warm and still liquid, remove any large bits of the leaves then pour off the lard into a clean glass jar. Allow to set then use as a salve.
- Diaper Rash / Hemorrhoid Ointment: If you have a container of these on hand, they can help reduce the painful itch and swelling.
- White Household Vinegar: Either add a few cups to bath / dab directly onto skin. Can combine with salt before applying.
- Buttermilk: Add a couple cups to bath or work in a bit of sea salt and dab directly onto skin.
- Honey: Smear over irritated location as needed for relief.
- Banana peel: Rub the inside of the peel over the affected area.
- Calamine Lotion: Apply generously and as often as needed.
- Aloe Vera Gel: Apply as often as needed.
How To Identify
Old Saying To Identify The Plant:
- Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, danger in sight.
The leaves are ternate with three almond-shaped leaflets. The berries (actually drupes) are a grayish-white color and are a favorite winter food of some birds.
- It may take a couple days after exposure before the rash appears and typically lasts up to two weeks.
- Did you know: A person who has come in contact with poison ivy can transfer the urushiol to another person or another part of their own body. If on an animal’s fur, it’s easily transferred as well. Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth, any other sensitive areas until the skin has been washed first. The rash or blisters themselves are not contagious (even if oozing), it’s the transferring of the urushiol residue that passes it from one person to another.
- Some people are highly sensitive to it and a severe allergic reaction may occur, including anaphylactic shock. If victim finds it difficult to breathe, develops a fever, severe swelling occurs within hours, seek medical attention immediately.
- Remove all clothing items that were worn during the exposure and wash in hot, soapy water.
- Getting rid of the plant: Wear gloves and cover all parts of the body so no skin is exposed, dig up the plants (roots and all) and dispose of immediately. Pour a heavy solution of salt (or vinegar) and water on soil where it grew (be aware this affects soil quality for surrounding vegetation). Do not burn the uprooted leaves since the urushiol can contaminate the air and will be quite dangerous if breathed in or touches the eyes. Wash gardening tools with alcohol and launder gardening clothes immediately.
Note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is simply a collection of tips from my notes.