Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Tips and Home Remedies for Treating Poison Ivy, Rash, Blisters and Itching

7/8/2011 10:56:44 AM

Tags: poison ivy, blisters, rash, itch, DIY remedies

Poison Ivy 

As your fingers pluck the weeds between lengthening squash vines and ripening tomatoes, don’t forget to keep both eyes open for the ones that fight back. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are more likely to be tangled up in dense undergrowth; however, they still manage to appear where you least expect.

You can identify the poison ivy family by its shiny leaves in clusters of three, but don’t forget you can also contract an itchy rash from touching the roots, stems, flowers or berries. This reaction is known as contact dermatitis caused by contact with the irritant urushiol, resin found in poison ivy plants. When transferred to your body, urushiol bonds with the lipids in your skin. If not diluted with cold water immediately or wicked away with rubbing alcohol, an allergic reaction will follow, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, that will make your skin a war zone.

If you find yourself among the unlucky, nurse your rash with home-grown and store-bought antidotes, but remember time and patience are the only cure as you wait for the blisters and bumps to run their course (anywhere from two to four weeks). To reduce itching and spreading try some of the following:

DIY Remedies 

In The Itch and You (May/June 1989), MOTHER EARTH NEWS writer Terry Krautwurst suggests some remedies from home.

  • Moist compresses, soaking in cold water or taking a cold shower can temporarily ease the fiery itching.
  • Jewelweed (also known as touch-me-not) is common in the eastern U.S. and has long been used to ward off rashes. If you find that you've gotten into poison ivy, grab a handful of jewelweed leaves, flowers or stems, crush them, and rub them on your skin to release the juice.
  • Aloe vera gel can be squeezed from the plant of the same name or purchased in health food stores and drugstores. Aloe soothes and seems to promote healing.
  • Herbal topicals (not to be consumed, but applied to a rash) such as jewelweed, plantain, oak bark (leaves or acorns), rhubarb leaves, ragweed, dock, gum plant (grindelia), garlic and goldenseal are among the more common and highly praised rash-healing herbs, according to Krautwurst.

Commercial Products 

There are many over-the-counter creams available. Try Tecnu Poison Oak-N-Ivy Cleanser. Tecnu is said to neutralize skin, clothing, footwear and tools and is available at outdoor and garden supply centers. Calamine lotion is also great for soothing itch and healing damaged skin after the climax of the rash. Calamine comes in pink and clear and is a classic antidote. An oatmeal bath can also calm poison ivy symptoms. You can buy a commercial oatmeal preparation (Aveeno), or make your own by wrapping a half cup of uncooked rolled oats in a piece of cloth and letting the cereal soak in the bath water. Squeeze the bundle from time to time or use it as your washcloth to release a solution that will help dry up the blisters and treat itch, according to Krautwurst.

Understand Your Symptoms 

In Outwitting Poison Ivy, Susan Carol Hauser dispels a lot of the myths surrounding the angry red blotches, oozing, weeping blisters and sensitive, itchy bumps that are the result of a brush with urushiol oil. Remember to wash all clothing and tools that may have come in contact with poison ivy. This will lower your risk of re-exposure. Also, try your hardest not to itch and further irritate the reacting skin. Be patient and let your immune system finish the fight on its own.

If you do break open a few of the blisters, do not worry about re-infection. The watery fluid released from the blisters is only blood serum and does not contain traces of urushiol oil, according to Hauser’s research. When new patches appear several days after the beginning of a rash, this is not necessarily evidence of spreading, but rather the emergence of other areas you were exposed to with smaller quantities of oil. Sometimes the original pattern of the contamination shows itself over a longer period of time. Late bumps can also be a sign that you are re-exposing yourself to urushiol oil and should re-wash clothes and wipe down furniture that may have come into contact with the oil.

The best cure is to avoid poison ivy all together so remember as you happily tackle rows of weeds this summer to keep both eyes open for the ones that fight back.   

Learn more about Identifying and Irradicating Poison Oak and Poison Ivy from Sandra Dark (March/April 1981) in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS archives.

Browse this dialogue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers to see what home-grown poison ivy antidotes they suggest.


Natalie Mae Schaefer is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .



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Post a comment below.

 

alice.ingrahm
5/11/2013 6:08:15 PM

Washing the affected area really well with dawn hand dishwashing soap and cold water works well for me -- though the sooner after being exposed to the urushiol oil, the better. The cold water prevents the oil from being absorbed deeper and the liquid dishwashing soap seems to draw out all of the urushiol oil. (I got the idea from watching wildlife rescuers clean oil-drenched ducks after the gulf oil spill.)


Suzanne Adams
4/18/2013 4:09:50 AM
Try sasquatch itch cream for relief immediately but it won't make the rash go away any faster--it still has to run it's course.

Mary Ellen
4/8/2013 4:33:13 PM
I have a severe allergy to poison ivy and poison oak and the only remedy for me is steroid injections. Some people do not respond to the mentioned treatments. It all depends on the severity of the allergy. If you wait around as I did the first time and spent several days self-treating the allergy, it may result in a large part of your body affected and then you really need serious medication for several days.

Suzannah McCuen
1/15/2013 11:40:16 PM
I have a history of horrible allergic reactions to poison ivy - but have had NO problem since following the advice of those who recommended I wipe down with Clorox then shower right after coming in from the workday. It works - even if you can't get to the Clorox for a few hours. I now keep a canister of Clorox wipes in my truck for when I'm working away from home and come into contact or even think I may have come into contact with poison ivy. No more outbreaks.

Peter Gillespie
8/19/2012 10:08:42 AM
Update, this am I took down 2 Gardinia bushes that were completely entwined with poison oak, I took every precaution, long rubber boots, long sleeves taped to rubber gloves etc... but some of the oil seems to have made it through my cotton shirt and on the back side of my arm. Once everything was removed and I disrobed, I noticed the red rash and bumps immediately, used lukewarm soap and water, nothing, tried bleach and bleach bath, nothing,,, rubbing alcohol, nothing,, So I googled poison oak remedy and saw a farmers remedy to use gas. So I soaked up a bit of gas on a paper towel and blotted the area , changed the paper towel out and did it again, within 15 minutes the rash and itch completely disappeared. I immediately took a shower to remove the gas residue and am happy to report I have no posion oak I also cleaned all of my tools , rake shovel and wheel barrel with a gasonline soaked rag and then rinsed with hot soapy water..... Yes gas is a definitely not good for you but Tecnu, the number one high dollar wash is a distillate of gasoline,,,,,,,

Dale Moss
7/2/2012 9:26:07 PM
As a homeopath (and veteran of a few encounters with poison ivy), I find articles like these very frustrating. No single remedy, home-made or commercial, works for everyone. Poison ivy affects people in ways that look similar but are really very different. To suggest cold water to allay itching may work for some; but others will need scalding hot water to stop that itch. For those who are susceptible, the P.I. tends to spread beyond the original site, no matter how much you contain that urge to scratch. With a really bad bout,, the only way to stop that process is the right homeopathic remedy -- in very high potency. Topicals are useful only for limited symptomatic relief.

Denis Dooley
7/2/2012 8:22:19 PM
Be careful about secondary infections if you get to the blister stage. I once had a really bad case of poison ivy turn into Impentigo. the "blood serum" then acted as a vector to help me spread it to my sisters and to several cousins. That Impentigo is some seriously contageous stuff.1

Steve ToYou
7/2/2012 4:49:46 PM
For some reason contrasting memories of the misery of attempting to peel off white jeans that looked like I had spilled coffee on my thighs from the number of broken blisters adhering my jeans to me with the thought that it was - in the words of the author - "only blood serum" made me laugh.

jim adams
7/2/2012 2:52:38 PM
I won't use any of the remedies as your article describes them. However, Burt's Bees has a Poison Ivy soap that works better than anything else i've run into (except maybe my home made remedy.. use one of the plastic gauze shower scrubbies and rub the Burt's Bees poison ivy soap on it; then scrub your skin hard .. enough to abrade it a little. Why? Poison ivy oils penetrate thru the epidermis down to the dermis where it reacts, causing blisters. Soap and jewel weed tincture don't get thru the epidermis unless we help it a bit. After that, (and maybe using poison ivy soap 2 or 3 more times .. and maybe not) the poison ivy will only last 3 or 4 days. I also make a tincture of jewel weed ... pick 1 or 2 jewel weed plants when they are in flower and chop up into 1/4" chunks or smaller; put in a sauce pan barely covered with water and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Strain, and add half a tablespoon of regular Dawn dish soap, and pour into a couple ice cube trays. When frozen, put in a plastic bag and store in the freezer. Scrub as i mention above for Burt's Bees poison ivy soap. And again ... the poison ivy is almost gone -- itchless -- in 3 -4 days. I wish you good skill.

Robin
6/18/2012 12:14:40 PM
Fels-Naptha soap also helps. You can make homemade laundry detergent with it too and it will remove the oils from your clothing.

KEITH WHITMORE
6/15/2012 3:01:48 PM
personallity, I can roll around in the stuff buck naked & I won't get the rash. I'm immuned to it, but I don't go out of my way in doing that. When I'm around the stuff I wear gloves. But that's all though. And, I'm always wearing shorts & tee shirt.

C Kington
8/2/2011 6:35:41 AM
I know this sounds crazy but it stops the itching, Vagisil creme. Now I know you guys are going to be repulsed but try it.

RADICAL MAMA
8/1/2011 3:41:33 PM
Typically I get poison ivy very badly. Been the traditional medical route out of necessity too many times in the past-- rushed to the ER bad. I had to leave my job during both of my pregnancies because the doctor was concerned about the baby if I caught it (yes, THAT BAD) . Just this past week I tried homeopathic Rus tox (derived from poison ivy i think?) & it worked wonders! Itching was gone within the hour & after a few doses I decided to apply it directly to the rash & boom, gone. have had a few bumps pop up on other spots, but nothing like it used to be-as in- finally surfacing on the bottom of my feet by Thanksgiving. Give it a try!

Kate Gusmano
7/15/2011 1:24:44 PM
Aloe Vera is very soothing and anti-inflammatory, reducing the urge to SCRATCH and risk infection. It's also antibacterial and dries to form a protective barrier, speeding the healing process. Store it in the fridge and it feels even better. For instructions for how to use the leaves of the plant and how concoct a spray with aloe at home, check out: www.aloeplant.info/natures-powerhouse-aloe-vera-for-insect-bites-and-poison-ivy/

Kathleen Lawler
7/15/2011 10:12:42 AM
About 30 years ago I worked with a woman from deep in louisanna. Her grandmother had a very special cure for all rashes. Of course her mama called it juju. You get a white rag and lay it out. Go find some Dirt dobber clumps (Mud nest) and put it in the white rag then twist it closed like a sachel. Get a hammer or rock and hammer the mud dobber dirt inside the white cloth. Then just dust the rash with the white cloth with the fine powder coming out of it cloth. She says it will draw poisen from weeds out and dry it up too. Well you asked for old time cures. LOL










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