The Best Cure for Poison Ivy: Curing the Cliché

poison ivy rash

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Growing up, we all thought poison ivy would be a huge problem in our lives. It seems at least one character from every show or book we consumed would end up in a tussle with the dreaded plant.

Well, unless you live near a forest or enjoy rubbing random plants on your body, you have probably not suffered from contact with poison ivy.

But what happens when you do? Poison ivy is infamous because it is so good at blending into other, benign plants, catching victims off guard when they brush against it or suddenly come up a whole plant while hiking or exploring.

That is why so many people have felt the sting of this mistake! And trust us—if you ever have the misfortune of getting up close and personal with this hidden menace, you will think of nothing but finding the best cure for poison ivy.

What is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is a shrub in the northern and western parts of the US, and a vine everywhere else. Because it contains urushiol, an oil that causes a majority of people to break out into a rash, it is extremely irritating to human beings’ fragile skin.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

Poison ivy always has three leaflets to a stem and grows in either shrubs or vines. It is bright green in the summer, red or yellowish-red in the fall, “hairy,” leafless, and brown in the winter, and back to green with hints of yellow or red in the spring.

It is essential to be familiar with all appearances of poison ivy because it can take different forms depending on what part of the world you are in.

I Came in Contact! What Do I Do!?

If you believe you have come in contact with poison ivy, do not hesitate to begin treating yourself. Poison ivy can take anywhere from four to forty-eight hours to start showing up on your skin as painful blisters and an angry rash.

Sometimes you do not even have to come in direct contact with poison ivy to be affected.

The oil from poison ivy can contaminate clothes, equipment, and other plants that can get to you that way. Extra precaution must be taken when around dense brush or forests.

If your symptoms come with a high fever, an all-body break out of hives and rash, or if you have a reaction near your eyes or genital area, go to a doctor immediately. You may be having an allergic reaction to the poison ivy, which can be life-threatening.

What to Do After Contact with Poison Ivy

1. Use Rubbing Alcohol

Right after exposure to poison ivy, make sure you wash any affected areas with cold or lukewarm water. Warm water can spread the oil and cause it to enter your skin faster.

After washing with cold water, you can use rubbing alcohol to take off the urushiol oil from the skin so that you lessen the discomfort and effect of the oil.

Do this within the first 10 minutes of exposure for maximum effectiveness. Frequent hikers have been known to carry alcohol wipes at all times just in case they come across poison ivy.

Remember how it can stick to any surface? The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes urushiol can remain on the surface of whatever comes in contact with poison for years unless those items are washed!

If you were too late and developed a rash, rubbing alcohol can still help with the pain afterward as well.

2. Shower (No Hot Water!)

First of all, do not forget to wear gloves! You do not want to inadvertently spread the oils. Thoroughly wash your skin all over, including under your fingernails and potential areas you came in direct contact with the oil.

Use plain soap and cold water (lukewarm if cold is a little too extreme.) Although you can technically skip the rubbing alcohol and shower first, it is better to rub yourself down with alcohol first.

If you shower within 60 minutes of you being exposed to poison ivy, you have a much higher chance of lessening the effects of the plant.

3. Use a Cold Compress

Cool compresses can be used when the itching and blisters come full force. They can give relief from itchiness or pain.

You will need a clean washcloth, cool water, and your itchy skin. Wet the washcloth with cold water, wring the excess, and apply it to the skin for 15 to 30 minutes. Do this as many times as you need to get rid of some of the stings.

4. Do Not Scratch Yourself!

We know how tempting it is. We know how itchy it is. But do not scratch your skin or blisters! If you scratch enough, you can give yourself an infection when your blisters begin to bleed or burst.

If you cannot help yourself, leave any open blisters alone and head straight to a doctor. You may need antibiotics if you suddenly have fever-like symptoms and open wounds.

Did you remember to scrub under those nails? If you scratch with oily fingernails, you could be making your rash that much worse. Look, but do not touch!

These Contend As The One True Best Cure for Poison Ivy:

The following treatments have given victims of poison ivy some desperately sought relief. Make sure you apply one or some of these treatments more than once a day if you have severe itching and discomfort.

  • Aloe vera gel (to soothe any burning sensation)
  • Hydrocortisone creams and calamine lotion (to reduce itching and swelling)
  • Antihistamines like Benadryl
  • Adding baking soda (recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology) or oatmeal to a lukewarm bath

Stronger treatments may be steroid creams or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor if your blisters are severe and you think you may have an infection.

Final Thoughts

The best way to treat poison ivy is obviously to avoid it in the first place.

Wear long-sleeved shirts if you are going to walk through densely forested areas, carry alcohol wipes, and consider making a little medical kit in case of poison ivy exposure made up of the things we mentioned, like hand soap and lukewarm water.

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