Poison Ivy: Identifying and Treating Poison Ivy Rashes

Home Remedies for Poison Ivy Rash

George and Becky Lohmiller
poison-ivy

It is important to learn how to identify both poison ivy plants and rashes in order to prevent a rash from spreading.

Pace University

Poison ivy can cause a nasty rash, so it is important to learn how to identify the plant as well as how to treat poison ivy. There are many home remedies that can be helpful in relieving the itch, but your best bet is to stay away!

“Leaves of three, let it be”: Three-leaved poison ivy has a nasty habit of rewarding those who touch it with two or three weeks of blistering misery. It is nature’s nasty revenge, but with a little education you can learn to identify it, prevent it, or treat it with a bit less aggravation.

Poison Ivy Identification: Plant and Poison Ivy Rash

Poison Ivy Plant

  • Poison ivy’s “leaves of three” are glossy-green, but are tinged with pink in the spring, and take on a brilliant orange in the autumn.
  • These leaves sometimes vary in appearance, however. They can be either shiny or dull, and some are toothed while others are not.
  • Poison ivy can grow as an erect shrub, a winding vine, or simply along the ground.
  • It has small, pearl-colored berries. These are a favorite treat of many birds, which spread poison ivy seeds around the countryside.
  • Seedlings of the boxelder tree look similar to poison ivy with three leaves, but they do not have berries and are yellow in the autumn. The leaves of Virginia creeper also look similar to those of poison ivy, but Virginia creeper has five leaflets rather than three.
  • Poison ivy is especially common around fences or along roadways.

Poison Ivy Rash

  • A poison ivy rash will usually occur within 12 to 48 hours. The area will severely swell, itch, and turn red. Later, blisters will form. The blisters eventually become crusted and take about 10 days to heal.
  • Red bumps also might form where the blisters will soon appear.
  • Often, a poison ivy rash appears in a streaked pattern. This mimics the way in which a person has rubbed up against the plant.
  • It is a common misconception that touching a body part with a poison ivy rash, and then touching another body part, causes the rash to spread. The rash might appear on some body parts later than others, but this is only due to a difference in the time it takes for the poison oil to absorb into the skin.
  • Be careful not to confuse poison ivy with swimmer’s itch. They might seem similar at the beginning, especially because poison ivy might be in a lakeside or pondside area where you’re swimming. For more tips on swimmer’s itch, look at this article.

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Photo Credit: Michigan State University. Poison ivy always has three leaflets, but their coloration can change from green to orange to red.

What Causes a Poison Ivy Rash?

The poison is an oily resin called urushiol that occupies every part of the plant, including the roots.

  • The leaves, especially young ones, contain the most toxin.
  • The oil can remain on tool handles and clothing for as long as a year. Dogs and cats can carry its potency on their fur. This is why you can come down with a rash without having seen poison ivy in months.
  • People may become more sensitive to the oily resin urushiol with multiple exposures. If you’ve had poison ivy before, be sure to avoid it in the future.
  • Different people have different sensitivities to poison ivy. The older you get before coming into contact with it, the better: You will have a lower chance of developing an allergy. Only about 15 percent of people are resistant to poison ivy.

Fortunately, the oils don’t always go to work immediately, especially on dirty or work-hardened hands. If you come in contact with poison ivy, wash up at once and launder your clothes using old yellow laundry soap or boraxo to cut the oil. (Soaps made with fat are ineffective.)

How to Treat Poison Ivy: Home Remedies

If you become affected, there is no shortage of remedies, but many of them are useless and some can even make matters worse.

  • If you realize that you or your clothes have touched poison ivy, get to a source of water immediately. If you can clean yourself and your clothes with cold water within five minutes of touching the plant, the oil might not be absorbed into your skin. Soap is helpful within the first 30 minutes as well.

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  • Be sure to wash any clothing or gear that comes in contact with poison ivy, as the oil can persist for months. Bathe animals as well if they may have touched the poison ivy.
  • Mild cases can be helped by calamine lotion, over-the-counter cortisone creams, and saltwater soaks, but severe cases require prescription cortisone. Soaking in cool water or a lukewarm bath with a baking soda solution also might help.
  • A barrier cream, IvyBlock, containing quaternium-18 bentonite, which bonds with the urushiol, promises to be effective 68%of the time, if applied before any contact with poison ivy.
  • Excessive itching of blisters can cause infections. Try to ease the itch, or simply find a distraction, so as not to make your rash even worse. Wash broken blisters lightly, and cover with a bandage to prevent further itching and infection.
  • Prevention is a simple way to prevent contact with poison ivy. Use our tips for identifying it, and wear long sleeves when walking outside. Also, wash any clothes or equipment if you have been walking in a wooded area with shrubs.
  • Eradicating poison ivy is probably the best way to remain itch-free. The plants can be destroyed by covering them with black plastic or spraying them with appropriate herbicides. But beware—even dead plants are infectious. And do not burn the plants! Smoke from burning poison ivy can cause great irritation to your lungs.
  • One great home remedy for poison ivy rashes—as well as most other itches—is oatmeal.
  • Be sure to check our page on Summer Itches to know when you need to take a trip to the hospital based on complications of a poison ivy rash.

Perhaps someday, plant scientists will develop a non-poisonous variety. Rumor has it that they have already crossed poison ivy with four-leaf clovers, hoping to get a rash of good luck.

Source: 

This page was first published in 2010 and is regularly updated.

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Poison Ivy Wash & Dry Works!

Poison Ivy Wash & Dry Works!

As living proof, what I’m about to tell you is not pleasant. So, if you have a queasy stomach, read no further. Being highly allergic to all strains of leaves of three and sumac, which has 5 to 13 leaflets on a shrub/tree that can grow 9 feet tall, I have contracted the hellacious rash at least 60 times in my lifetime. One Thanksgiving when I was around 9 years old I had the worst case ever in my life.

Being one of seven children, Thanksgiving plans were not cancelled because of one child’s illness. Number one, because at least one child was sick with something or another at all times, and, number two, that would mean my mother would have to cook dinner. My mother went to great lengths and accepted many things to get a relief from cooking a meal for a crowd of nine!
Getting It!

I don’t remember how I got it. Back then, we may not have known that it could be contracted through unwashed clothing, tools, and skin that made contact with any part of the plant. My father or brothers may have been in the woods and I may have brushed against them before they were able to get washed. The rash can also be contracted by breathing the smoke of burning ivy, oak, or sumac plants. And, as there was extensive brush burning one fall, that could have been the catalyst for my worst nightmare.

The rash spread and then spread some more. It covered my face, legs, hands, arms, and neck. Thankfully, I don’t remember it hampering my toilet skills. The rash oozed, crusted over, then repeated, sort of like a volcano creating layers of lava. I’ll call this oozo. The oozo welded my mouth shut so that I could only drink my foods through a straw. My fingers were welded shut so I could not grasp anything. It hurt to walk and wear clothes. I was carried around in a sheet. That was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life, list including childbirth and breaking a tail bone.
Getting Rid of It!

I have used bleach, alcohol, vinegar, oatmeal baths, calamine, a scrub brush, and dishwashing detergent to try to stop the spreading and hasten the drying. None of them worked. A product called, Zanfel, came on the market and, though it did work, given enough time, it was VERY expensive! In 2015, it was about $32 for a very small tube, which was about half the cost of a doctor visit! I continued trying different things and combinations of things, ending with the resulting combination, Ivy Wash & Dry! It works!

This year I have contracted poison ivy or oak twice already and within two to three days, had no more oozing from the rash, which signified the drying stage had begun. My previous time span for ivy/oak/sumac rashes to run their course was usually six weeks, or most of the summer. With Ivy Wash & Dry, my rash is almost healed within one week. Friends who tried Ivy Wash & Dry had similar healing success with their rashes.
Prevention

Ivy Wash & Dry will not prevent you from getting poison ivy/oak/sumac. I have found that if you apply body lotion, face lotion, or other products containing oil, to your skin, the likelihood of contracting the rash, if coming in light contact with it, diminishes greatly. My scientifically curious mind tells me that the oil could dilute the oil from the ivy plant, called urushiol, and allows it to be washed away in the shower, OR that the oil in the face/body lotion acts as a barrier against the urushiol. In any case, showering with extremely warm water and grease-cutting soap is beneficial in removing some of the urushiol from your skin. Rinsing after suspending the urushiol in the soap product is as important as washing. However, plain soap will not cleanse all the urushiol from your skin. You will need a special oil soap like Ivy Wash & Dry to complete the task.
Ivy Wash & Dry Precautions

There are no harsh chemicals in this product. However, like peanuts, some people have allergies to certain substances. Do not use this product if you have a contact allergy with wax polish or turpentine as you may have a reaction to the limonene found in this oil soap. Limonene is a naturally occurring chemical found in trees, plants, and citrus fruits. Do not use this product if you have a contact allergy to tree nuts as it contains ground walnut shells. Because of the walnut shells (grit), pumice (grit), and other substances in Ivy Wash & Dry, keep out of the eyes! If there is enough call for it, I will develop a product without the walnut shells.

When using Ivy Wash & Dry, you must follow directions carefully as I know it successfully dries the rash by following only those steps. Although the discovery of this wonderful combination of things was when I had a large 8-inch diameter blistered area on my thigh, I do not recommend you use this product in those instances. Instead, contact a physician. Ivy Wash & Dry works well when the rash first appears and/or when the rash does not affect large areas.

Find Ivy Wash & Dry in the Farm Shop at littlebooksalive dot com I truly hope you find this product helps you as it has helped me.

poison ivy

I am extremely allergic...been covered from head to toe....have tried a number of supposed solutions...most don't work....will try the bleach....what I have learned is if you cut of the air supply once you're infected and have broken out is to cover with ointment...oil...i use neosporin with the numbing agent and then cover with a bandage to cut the air flow.......no itching whatsoever so no scratching....works every time....if you do touch the plant...cold water immediately....if you have to shower with your clothes on and strip in the shower....do it....then soap it up

Poison Oak/Ivy

I have found that showering with Burt's Bees soap immediately after contact will prevent the rash.

Best Poison Ivy "Save your Sanity" Remedy We Found

My husband was extremely allergic to poison ivy. We tried everything you could purchase to no avail. Luckily we had friends with great tips. Here is how to keep the sanity in your family.

If you can't avoid it, wash your skin and clothes as soon as possible. Don't forget to clean shoes and upholstery (car/home) if you are super allergic.

Denorex Medicated Dandruff Shampoo - takes care of the oil, drys out the rash and relieves the itching. (The smell is a small price to pay for relief plus it is a lot cheaper than poison ivy remedies.)

You can also run hot water or a hair dryer over the area to release the histamines and give yourself a break from the itching for several hours. Of course it will be itchy while you do that.

Aloe Vera (from the plant) is excellent for itching but be aware that any clothing it comes in contact with will be permanently stained and your skin will be sticky.

Poison Ivy

I agree with Alphine. Jewel weed mashed up real well. If you are lucky enough to know where some is, pick it, mash it or blend/food processor it and make ice cubes. This way you always have it on hand.

Poison ivy

What about Jewel Weed ? it is suppose to be the natural antidote for poison ivy

poison ivy remedies

We think it’s in the eye of the beholder. There aren’t any medical studies to prove that jewelweed is effective treatment. However, jewelweed is a traditional, natural remedy remedy that has been used for centuries. If you get poison ivy (and we hope not), see if it works for you!

Do not forget that poison ivy

Do not forget that poison ivy also grows as a vine.....a hairy vine will itch you divine....

white shoe polish it gets rid

white shoe polish it gets rid of the itching and clears poison ivy up

Dawn *used* to contain

Dawn *used* to contain phosphates, which DEFINITELY cleared up rashes. But phosphates have all but been eradicated from any soaps out there today. Amway had a soap that was under the FDA radar for a while, and it always cleared up my poison ivy---but this idea that "blue dawn" works to clear rashes is outdated. I have had MUCH success with bleach on *unbroken* skin that has just started to show bumps.

I was in the scouts we used

I was in the scouts we used to take plain simple Deodorant "right guard " spray on the busters and it help'dry up very quickly

Yikes! Speaking of home

Yikes!

Speaking of home remedies, I knew someone who swore by an iron brush and bleach. Thankfully, I never tried it.

When ever I get poison ivy, I used this stuff called Itch Juice (www.mypoisonivytreatment.com). It's pretty good. The rash doesn't go away for a day or so, but because I am a landscaper I order get poison oak and this is the best stuff I've found so far.

I have poisin ivy right now.

I have poisin ivy right now. I just put bleach on it. Goes away every time. Dab some bleach on it. Works every time.

My dad swears by bleach on

My dad swears by bleach on poison ivy. But he says you have to scratch it open first.

bleach for me too. if i have

bleach for me too. if i have been around poison ivy or oak and get those familiar tingles the following day--i wait and see where the bumps appear, and then:

Qtip with bleach,
1) apply to new bumps for a couple of minutes
2) wipe bleach off
3) rinse area with water.

I am EXTRRRREMELY allergic to poison ivy. I have tried EVERYTHING. Most products are bullsh#t claims. Bleach works. Do your own research, my experience is my experience. It eorks for me, but is dangerous. I accept no resonsibility for any damage done to you if you put bleach on your own skin. Cursed urushion oil, I hate you!!!!

the bleach treatment has

the bleach treatment has worked again.
--I will say, I am familiar with the tingle of poison ivy, it is different than dry skin or a mosquito bite. I use a q-tip and lightly dab bleach on any new bumps of poison. IT DOES NOT HURT. People assume that it does. It has NEVER damaged my skin, people also assume that it does. Anyway I was off the bleach with water. In 5% of new spots I need to reapply. I have never found a better treatment than bleach. I was an Eagle Scout and got poison dozens of times--no "products" worked. Prednisone does, but it is also nothing I want in my body. I hope my comments help somebody.
--One final comment-- I personally would be very aprehensive about putting bleach on an already developed rash. It may work and dry up the rash, but that the skin is broken would have me scared to chance any skin damage. Mainly, I'd say that if you "think" you may have gotten into some form of poison and start feeling intense tingles the next day, THAT is when I treat with bleach. Spot specific for about one minute, then rinse off.

Heat it with a blow dryer as

Heat it with a blow dryer as long as you can stand it. It feels great and gives you about ten hours of relief. I do it his with bug bites as well.

It won't make the rash

It won't make the rash resolve any faster, but Sasquatch Itch Cream or even Tiger Balm (the old fashioned stuff) will give you about 10-12 hours of itch relief. Both act as counter-irritants and confuse the nerves that carry itch signals to your brain. I've spent many days on the river fly fishing and scratching my hide off before I discovered this.

A poison ivy remedy that

A poison ivy remedy that really works!

POISON IVY KILLER 3 cups

POISON IVY KILLER
3 cups vinagar 1/2 cup of salt 1 Tbls Dawn dish liquid heat till salt disolved spray poison ivy every 3 to 4 days till all is gone. Also great to use on skin that has been exposed to poison plants. This is the best and safest weed killer I have ever found!!

I have aleays had great

I have aleays had great relief by using Fels-naptha soap. If I have been out where I might have been exposed I wash with it. If I have broken out I wash the affected area and then I lather that area and let it dry on. Works great!

Liquid dish washing soap is

Liquid dish washing soap is very good at cutting oil and should work on the oily resin of poison ivy.

You must be kidding.

You must be kidding.

I kid u not - Dawn (the blue

I kid u not - Dawn (the blue stuff) is the best - take a shower with it if you think you came in contact with poison ivy. No more rash and way cheaper than Technu.

Try a mixture of Bleach and

Try a mixture of Bleach and water. it must a 60%-40% or 50%-50% mixture. The water activates the bleach. Straight Bleach DOES NOT WORK!!!! It needs the water.
Let me know of your success'
RCLang@Gmail.Com
Rob

I could remember a bleach

I could remember a bleach called white Monday and we would use it for different helmets it was not like Clorox bleach and mix it half-and-half it was good home abrasions poison ivy poison oak and sumac one must remember whatever you touch the affected area it spreads when you scratch It , it is like a chemical biological warfare this solution being pushed out by your body is toxic when you break the blisters the water is the poison so wherever you scratch and you Scratch some where else you spread the Toxic oil, The bleach helps dry it up

I have used straight bleach

I have used straight bleach no diluted solution for years. Clears up that spot every time

A poison ivy remedy that

A poison ivy remedy that really works! Look for a weed which grows along roadside ditches whose juice acts as a treatment for poison ivy rash, relieving that awful itch. The weed is called, "jewelweed" (sometimes misspelled as "jewel weed"), or "touch-me-not" ). Its taxonomy, Impatiens capensis, classifies it as a wild version of the colorful impatiens plants sold so widely for shady annual beds, and if you cannot locate jewelweed, you can try using the juice from impatiens stems. You can purchase extracts online, or you can collect the jewelweed, split the stems and rub the juice on the affected area. Relief is prompt and lasting!