Between 50 and 70 percent of people are allergic to the plant oil urushiol, found in poison ivy, oak and sumac. Brushing against any part of these plants can lead to a severe rash that can last between two to three weeks.
To reduce the allergic reactions and sooth the itch follow this advice:
- Immediately wash the affected area with a special poison ivy soap such as Burts’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap, Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit, Ivarest Medicated Cream, IvyStat or Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub. Most can be found at your local pharmacy. In a pinch, soap and water will do.
- Apply cool compresses that have been soaked in 4 ounces water with 5 drops of chamomile oil and 5 drops lavender oil.
- For larger areas, soak in a cool bath in which you added oatmeal. Placethe oatmeal in a nylon and hang in over the tap while letting the water pour through the nylon. You can also make a bath using cups concentrated chamomile tea. Add 2 cups loose chamomile tea and steep in 2 cups boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and when cool, add to the bath.
- After the bath, mix calamine with an antihistamine lotion such as Benadryl. Spread on the itchy areas.
- For severe itching, take an oral antihistamine such as Claritin or Benadryl.
Why it Works
Poison Ivy creams are specially formulated to remove urushiol. Chamomile and lavender oil both have anti-inflammatory properties to soothe itching.
The cool bath with oatmeal help relieve the itching and inflammation thanks to a gelatin-like carbohydrate found in oatmeal.
Calamine lotion is a zinc-based formula that also soothes itching and has a mild anti-bacterial action to prevent infection.
Benadryl, whether taken orally or used directly on the skin in gel form, works to block the action of histamines that cause inflammation.
Nettle: Take 2 to 3 freeze dried nettle capsules immediately. Rpeat with 1 to 3 capsules three to four times a day over the next 24 to 48 hours. Nettle leaves contain quercetin, which acts as a natural antihistamine.
Hydrocortisone 1%: Start with this low level tropical steroid to control itching and rash. If that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about stronger prescription creams, or in severe cases, oral corticosteroids.
Homeopathy: Use 12x or 6x preparations of Rhus tox, a homeopathic preparation made from the resin of poison ivy, every two to four hours after exposure and then four times a day until symptoms respond. Stop if the symptoms or rash gets worse and see your doctor.
The best medicine is always prevention. To protec yourself against exposure:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts anytime you may be near poisonous plants.
- Apply IvyBlock or any other similar cream containing a clay that blocks absorption of urushiol.
- Learn to identify the plant so you can avoid contact. Taking the poison ivy quiz will improve your ability to spot the plant.
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