Summer Irritants: Poison Ivy
We all love spending time outdoors when the weather is warm and sunny. Watching the trees slowly grow full with leaves and colorful flowers coming into bloom makes spring and summer one of the best times of year!
There are also some major downsides to to warming weather and blossoming plants that, without preparation, can cause us harm or discomfort. Sometimes it’s harmless, such as mild seasonal allergies to tree pollen. Tree, grass, and weed pollen are a widespread allergen to many people in the United States. In most cases, seasonal allergies only lead to mild discomfort, but for others, plant allergies require intervention.
Poison ivy, on the otherhand, affects about 85% of the U.S. population, with over 50 million people suffering from the allergic reaction to the plant oils each year! So how do we stay protected? What happens when we get an itch that just won’t quit?
Know what to look for
Stop the Itch has great information about recognizing the differences between Poison Oak, Sumac, and Ivy
Poison Ivy: leaves of this plant will appear in groups of three and the plant can be found in many different places. Sometimes it climbs walls and fences like vines, other times it spreads out along the ground.
Poison Oak: looks a lot like poison ivy because the leaves also appear in groups of three. Poison oak can be found, less often than poison ivy, in bushes and hidden within the leaves and branches of other plants.
Poison Sumac: looks a lot like other plants you may find in the woods; leaves can be in groups of 7-13 and can grow parts that resemble flowers.
Stop the spread!
When the itching feels like it just won’t stop, there are a few things you can do to reduce the irritation. The rash and itch comes from an allergic reaction most people have to a chemical on the plant called Urushiol. Urushiol is a sticky substance that is found on the plant’s surface that easily sticks to skin, clothing, and hair. That’s why it’s possible to get a poison ivy reaction from petting a dog who has walked through the plant.
Poison Ivy Soap
Certain soaps can be used after exposure to poison ivy to remove the sticky urushiol from your skin. Look for soaps that are made with animal oils, as plant oils often times cannot remove other plant oils.
This particular brand of poison ivy soap also has an ingredient called Jewelweed. Jewelweed is an all-natural ingredient, a wild plant that grows in the shade and has a long-standing history of removing plant oils and soothing skin.
Other ways to relieve the itch
Lukewarm baths: If you are able to bathe immediately after coming into contact with poison ivy, bring the water to room temperature and use soap to gently wash the oil from your skin. For subsequent baths, keep temperature lukewarm and add oatmeal to soothe your skin if it feels itchy and irritated.
Wash you clothes: Any clothing you were wearing when you picked up the oils from a poisonous plant should be washed thoroughly and immediately. Any other clothing or shoes nearby could also be washed to avoid contracting it again or spreading it to others. Even objects such as gardening tools or your lawnmower handle could benefit from a quick wash just to be safe.
Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream: applied to itchy skin, both these ointments may provide you with some relief depending how serious your discomfort is.
Cool compress: apply a cool compress to itchy skin for some short-term relief. Sometimes, an immediate break from the itching is all you need to refrain from scratching for a while. Of course, itching your skin is not ever recommended because of the spread of the oil. If your skin blisters, simply try to leave it alone.