Summer means poison ivy is out there everywhere waiting to brush against your skin. Uroshiol oil in the poison ivy’s leaves is what causes the nasty rash and it must be washed off within 15 minutes to avoid an outbreak!
Typically a person will start washing with soap and water, however, the best way to first remove uroshiol is with rubbing alcohol. Alcohol is a solvent and dissolves the oil more effectively.
1. Pour the alcohol onto paper towels and then wipe the skin in the direction away from your face. Dispose of the towels afterwards in a plastic bag.
2. Follow with copious amounts of just water at first to rinse the oil off the skin. (Soap will be used later and if used now could allow the urishiol to spread to other areas).
3. Remove your clothes and shoes (outside if possible) and then take a shower with soap and water making sure to really lather up contacted areas to release any remaining uroshiol oil. Again, always wash away from your face.
4. Afterwards, wear vinyl gloves to touch anything that may have come in contact with the urushiol oil (i.e. shoes, tools, clothes), and clean them with rubbing alcohol and water.
5. Ivy Cleanse towelettes, from the makers of Ivy Block, the first FDA approved lotion to prevent poison ivy outbreaks, can be also be used. These are handy to carry with you when you are far from running water.
*What to do if you still break out with a poison ivy rash:
Drugstore products may help after you have broken out with a rash or to keep the outbreak contained. I personally have used Zanfel with very good results, and a close friend uses Tecnu and swears by it. These products are expensive but well worth the money if they control the poison ivy outbreak and can be found online or in your local drug store.
*Products to use for the itch of poison ivy:
There are a number of drugstore remedies that can be tried once the rash is in full swing. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to better guide you on those best for you.
Choices usually include:
Antihistamine pills to relieve itching
Cortisone creams to decrease inflammation and swelling
Calamine lotion for itching and to dry up blisters
Aveeno or oatmeal baths soothe itching and can also be used as compresses
Ice pack application can relieve a bad bout of itching
*See a doctor for poison ivy exposure if:
1. The poison ivy rash is on your face, near your eyes or if you feel your mouth has been exposed and there is swelling. Call 911 if you develop trouble with your breathing.
2. The poison ivy rash is not relieved by general treatment and it seems more areas over your body are breaking out. A doctor may decide to give you oral steroids for treatment.
3. An area has started to develop an infection which may be caused by excessive scratching. The area may appear more painful, swollen, warm or discolored.
4. You are on medications that make you more susceptible to other health problems.
It might be helpful to put together an emergency kit with either rubbing alcohol or Ivy Block towelettes, water bottle, paper towels and liquid soap just in case. Hopefully with a little pre-planning, you can enjoy the summer season without an outbreak from that dreaded weed.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles