What is Poison Ivy?
A toxic, weed-like plant found in most parts of the United States, poison ivy secretes an oily resin known as urushiol. If your skin touches urushiol, the resin can trigger allergic contact dermatitis and cause a red, itchy rash that's often marked by blisters and swelling.
In most cases of poison ivy reaction, medical attention isn't required and home remedies can help treat the rash. Here's how to prevent and heal poison-ivy-related irritation.
When you're spending time outdoors, remembering the rhyme "Leaves of three, let it be" can help you steer clear of poison ivy plants. With three leaflets to a stem, poison ivy may grow as a shrub or climbing vine. Its texture, shape, and color are all highly variable.
Although poison ivy rashes are often caused when the plant's leaves, stems, roots, or berries touch you directly, urushiol can also linger on your clothing, firewood, or a pet's fur and then transfer to your skin. Even inhaling the smoke from burned poison ivy plants can irritate your lungs, nasal passages, and throat.
Poison Ivy Symptoms
The redness, itching, swelling, and blisters signaling a poison ivy reaction typically show up 12 to 48 hours after exposure and may last as long as three weeks. While the rash itself isn't contagious and won't spread from scratching, bacteria under your fingernails can set off a secondary infection.
How to Get Rid of It
Cleaning the affected areas with cold water or rubbing alcohol right after exposure can help control a poison ivy reaction. Applying an over-the-counter barrier cream made with bentoquatam (known to shield the skin against poison ivy) can offer protection as well. You should also wash any contaminated items or clothing with soap or detergent, and bathe your pets to get the oil out of their fur.
Poison Ivy Remedies
Natural solutions for treating poison ivy rash include:
1) Witch Hazel
Made from the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis virginiana plant, a liquid distillation of witch hazel can be applied topically to reduce itching and swelling. This astringent is also used to relieve hemorrhoids naturally.
Adding colloidal oatmeal to a cool or lukewarm bath can calm your skin.
Learn about oatmeal's other benefits.
3) Aloe Vera
With its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, topically applied aloe vera can help heal irritated skin.
4) Menthol-Based Creams
An organic compound sourced from peppermint and other mint plants, menthol has a cooling effect on skin.
More on Treating Poison Ivy
It's important to note that severe poison-ivy symptoms (such as a fever higher than 100 F, difficulty breathing, yellow fluid oozing from blisters, or irritation in sensitive areas like eyes and mouth) call for immediate medical treatment.