Avoid the Itch! Preventing Poison Ivy
Every summer I seem to end up covered in scores of mosquito bites despite my best efforts; after moving to a new property last year, I added poison ivy rashes to that mix. This year, the poison ivy issue started early, when I tried to clear it from my yard in a bold (rash - ha ha?) decision to eradicate it before I had another miserable summer of looking like a leper. Well, of course, the poison ivy won that battle. And, even though I managed to pull up every bit of it that I could see, its root network ensured that by now, 3 weeks later, all of my hard work has been undone.
On the bright side, trying to deal with getting rid of the effects of the poison ivy rash led me to a wealth of information (and misinformation) about how best to deal with the itch. Since I went through and did my research, and self-experimented with many of the recommendations, I thought I would share some of them here with you.
There are numerous things recommended for use immediately after exposure to poison ivy to ensure that you won’t get a rash in the first place. By the time my research into this began I was well past being able to avoid the rash, so the things I’ve listed below are not ones that I was able to test out personally, with the exception of the pine tar soap, which is also good for reducing itching.
1. Do NOT take a shower. I learned this one the hard way. When you have been exposed to poison ivy, run the affected area under cold running water. Taking a shower will spread the poison ivy all over your body.
2. Use a grease cutting soap like a dish soap, or pine tar soap to wash the affected areas. Urushiol is the oil that poison ivy emits that affects us so badly, and it is a very hardy oil. Regular soap will not do the trick to get rid of it, and urushiol oil can linger on the surface of anything it touches for months, or even years, so make sure to scrub anything that might have touched it with the same soap.
3. Apply Tecnu, a medicated scrub that is extremely effective at eliminating any of the remaining urushiol oil on the body. Tecnu can also be used as a healing cream and itch relief if the poison ivy does become a rash.
If you are at the rash stage of poison ivy, there are quite a few options for what you can do to treat the itch. Because there are two different stages of the poison ivy rash though (weeping and non-weeping), be sure to pay attention to what treatments should be used at what stage.
1. At the weeping stage, the most important thing to do is to dry out the rash. For this stage, there are numerous recommendations for what can be used.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: This dries out the rash and facilitates healing. I used it, and found it to be very helpful at helping the rash to dry out more quickly. The apple cider vinegar does sting when applied, which can also help reduce the desire to itch.
- Jewelweed and jewelweed products: Jewelweed is a plant that grows in close vicinity to poison ivy, and is the number one relief you can find for the rash. If you can find the plant, crush it up and apply to the rash. If you can’t find the plant, there are a number of jewelweed based soaps and tinctures that you can buy around town or online.
- Witch Hazel: Witch hazel will help to soothe the itch, and it also helps to promote healing.
2. After the weeping stage has passed, the main goal is to promote healing, and soothe the irritated skin.
- Lavender Oil: Lavender helps to speed up the healing process.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea Tree oil will also help to speed up the healing process, and it helps heal from the inside out, reducing the chance for scarring.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe will help to soothe the redness and dryness that inevitably follows the drying process.