It should come as no surprise that with all of the overgrown areas we have been weeding and clearing, that this day would come… or rather, this past month. For almost the entire month of March, I’ve had poison ivy over most of my body – toes, ankles, legs, torso, chest, neck, arms, and even two spots on my face. It’s been absolutely torturous!
As someone who has never had a reaction to poison ivy, I’ve lived a life being blissfully unaware of the agony it wreaks. Honestly, I can barely identify poison ivy because I’ve just never had to worry about it – I’ve walked right through it and not had even the smallest reaction.
After being nearly recovered from the extreme breakout, I’ve come in contact with even more, and even my husband is afflicted. So I thought, what a better time than now to talk about tips and advice so you can hopefully avoid poison ivy yourself, as well as to help you recover quickly.
- Don’t be like me – just because “everything is dead” and there is no poison ivy in sight, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The urushiol oils, which cause the unpleasant itching and burning sensations, can live on the dead plant, and the root systems, so if you are weeding in March like I did, assume it’s everywhere.
- Wear pants, long-sleeve shirts and work gloves. Making sure you are covered up is your best chance at keeping the oils away from making skin contact. Try to avoid touching your face, neck or adjusting your clothing in anyway that could spread poison ivy oils from your gloves to your skin.
- Learn to identify poison ivy. We all know the saying, “Leaves of three, let it be”, right? Here are some tips on identifying poison ivy:
- Bunches of three leaves, pointed and with jagged edges.
- Poison ivy grows like a ground cover, creeping out and quickly up – wrapping itself around bushes, trees and more.
- Leaves may be red in the spring, and are always one of the first to change in the fall, becoming a vibrant orange/red
Too Late? Reduce your reaction to Poison Ivy by . . .
- If you do come in contact with poison ivy: wash immediately! Get in there and scrub, scrub, scrub! Using cold water will also keep your pores from opening, reducing the amount of oils absorbed by your skin. The average absorption rate fluctuates between 10 and 30 minutes, so the sooner you wash up, the better your chances are of having a mild-to-none reaction.After being absorbed, poison ivy takes anywhere from 24-72 hours to develop symptoms.
- Wash your work gloves, boots and tools. Since these items don’t absorb the oils the way our skin does, your tools can continue to be carriers for poison ivy, increasing your risk of future contact and breakouts. Wash clothing, glove and boots in hot water with a good laundry or dish soap. You can use the same soap, or even isopropyl alcohol, to wipe down any tools or items that you may have touched while working. These will remove the oils and make them safe for skin contact again.
Experiencing an itchy-nightmare?
- How you decide to treat your poison is up to you. There are a lot of herbal remedies out there that can help, and trust me, those are my go-to as well. In my situation, I had SO much poison ivy covering my body, that after a day of borderline-insanity-inducing itching and scratching, I bought a medicated ointment and some store-brand benadryl. Always check with a physician if you take medications or have any health conditions that could be affected or interact adversely with a medication or ointment. I was concerned about the potential effects these medications could have since I am a breastfeeding mom, and made sure I called my midwife before I went shopping.
- Shower often — nothing feels better than a nice hot shower when your skin is burning and itching.
- Epsom salts – Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salts to a hot bath and soak it up! My husband and I both agree that while the Ivarest and Benadryl helped save our sanity, the Epsom salt baths are what really seemed to make a difference. Everything seemed to stop oozing, really being to dry out and we went longer without feeling the urge to itch after a nice bath.
- The average outbreak from poison ivy lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 days. If you find your poison ivy bumps & blisters aren’t improving, or is dragging on longer than this average, you should definitely consult your physician as you may be more sensitive to poison ivy and may need something stronger. Oral antibiotics are commonly prescribed to help manage the symptoms, and beat the itch.
Depending on where you live and how much poison ivy is around, some serious steps may be needed to eradicate poison ivy from your property. In our situation, we have pretty much pulled it all up and murdered it’s root systems, so I am hoping this year is the last year we will have to experience such an intense relationship with the plant. By pulling up the plant, we are able (I hope!) to avoid needing to spray toxic chemicals to kill any remaining poison ivy, but this might not be the option for you. There are lots of suggestions out there, from using a hot-water and vinegar mixture, to using a chemical spray. Talking with someone at your local plant nursery is a great option to help you make the best choice for you.