It’s summer time! This means plenty of outdoor activities, and plenty of chances to get exposed to poison ivy. With nearly 85% of people sensitive to the oils found in the poison ivy plant, it’s wise to have some natural treatment options tucked away for this season.
Contrary to popular belief, the poison ivy rash itself is not contagious. This means it cannot be spread from one body part to another, or from one person to another. The poison ivy plant oils are easily spread from place to place, and love to linger around on clothes and anything it comes into contact with.
Read on for information on how to prevent poison ivy from spreading, and natural treatments for this itchy rash!
Causes of Poison Ivy Rash
According to the Poison Ivy Organization, the rash that manifests itself after exposure to poison ivy is caused by the plant oil called urushiol. All parts of the poison ivy plant contain this oil, meaning exposure to any part of the poison ivy plant can leave you itching for days or even weeks.
Unfortunately, urushiol cannot be seen on the plant’s surface. It’s a sticky and clear liquid compound found in the plant’s sap. It is completely colorless and odorless. It is also very quickly absorbed into the skin, but can remain on clothes or the skin’s surface for weeks at a time.
Poison Ivy Rash Symptoms
Do you suspect you have poison ivy? Have you recently been outside in an area where the plant can thrive? Check out these symptoms:
- Intense itching
- A red rash that may have yellow, inflamed patches
- Blisters on the skin (typically they form in a straight line or in patches, following the path of the oil from the poison ivy plant)
Unfortunately, a poison ivy rash can last for weeks at a time. Each person reacts to the plant differently. As an allergic response, it is definitely something to take seriously. As long as the rash is still spreading, that means the symptoms are still emerging, or you’ve been re-exposed to the oil.
If your symptoms are severe, please reach out to your doctor. Any signs of swelling, nausea, oozing blisters, fever, or difficultly sleeping due to discomfort should not be ignored!
Preventing Poison Ivy
The first step to preventing poison ivy is being able to recognize the plant. This will help you avoid exposure to the plant in the first place! Here are some tips for avoiding poison ivy:
- Poison ivy plants have 3 leaves and are shiny and medium sized — remember the phrase, “Leaves of three, let it be.”
- Poison ivy leaves are usually bright green, but can also have hints of red or yellow
- Poison ivy can grow just about anywhere. It’s fond of areas where people tend to roam around, like the edges of trails, streets, or gardens
- It thrives in partial shade and tends to grow where densely populated woods meet open land
- Poison ivy is sneaky. It can show up as a small vine or a small shrub. That means it can grow on the ground, but also up higher.
Natural Treatment Options for Poison Ivy
— Wash your hands and shower after exposure to the plant.
Using a strong soap, immediately wash the area that came in contact with the plant, as well as the rest of your body. This can help remove the plant oil and decrease your risk of having an allergic reaction. The sooner you wash off and shower after plant exposure, the better off you will be. Be sure to wash under your fingernails – the oil likes to hang out here. Also, don’t use a washcloth when you wash or dry your hands since the oil can find its way onto the cloth. Be sure to wash any clothes or towels!
— Cover up when gardening, hiking, etc.
If you know you are headed into an area prone to poison ivy, cover up! Whether you need to wear gloves to work in the garden, long pants to go on a hike, etc., if your skin is covered, the poison ivy plant oils have a harder time making their way onto your skin.
Do not forget that poison ivy oil can linger on clothes and gloves, so be sure to wash anything that may have been exposed to the plant, shoes included, as soon as you get home! If you know you were exposed to poison ivy, retrace your steps in your house and wipe down any doorknobs, walls, etc. you may have touched as well.
— Use a cool compress
If poison ivy blisters appear, use a cool compress to help soothe them. You can make this even more effective by adding lavender oil to the compress. Try taking a small towel and dipping it in cold water (or wrapping it around ice), and holding it gently against the inflamed skin for up to twenty minutes at a time. You can do this several times each day.
No lavender oil on hand? Try dipping the compress in apple cider vinegar or brewed black tea, which have also been proven to soothe the itch of a poison ivy rash.
— Herbal supplements
Rather than itching the poison ivy rash, which can irritate the skin even more, try applying some of these herbal remedies to the skin. These will help reduce inflammation and itch!
- Witch hazel
- Bentonite clay
- Essential oils such as lavender, geranium, or helichrysum
Do not let poison ivy bring you down this summer. Through these prevention tactics and natural treatment options, you can get outside, enjoy nature, and soak up the sun!
For all of your chiropractic needs this summer, and all year long, contact Healing Hands Chiropractic located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Reach us via phone at 615-203-3505. We look forward to working with you in your journey to a healthier life!