TO DO IF YOU BELIEVE YOU'VE GOTTEN INTO POISON IVY
|Poison ivy tends to grow amongst other plants, which makes it
especially difficult to spot sometimes. Here it is with a raspberry bush
and some other plants.
OK, so you've just
gotten the perfect picture of a wildflower. You stand up, look down, and realize
you were just kneeling next to poison ivy. Did your arm brush into in? Did your
camera strap touch it? Did you accidentally kneel IN it instead of NEXT to
Do not panic! There are things you can do!
think you have come in contact with poison ivy or an item contaminated with
the poison ivy oil, the best thing you can do is wash with soap and cool or cold
water as soon as possible (hot water can open your pores and let the oil in). Remember that it's the urushiol oil that causes the rash and
irritation, so the goal is to get it off of your skin effectively and as soon as
possible. If you can get the oil off in under 10 minutes, you may be able to
prevent the rash. The sooner you can remove the oil, the better.
some disagreement about what kind of soap to use. Some say regular soap is ok to
use, but others say that soaps that contain oils (such as moisturizing soaps)
might just spread
the urushiol oil around on you. I prefer Dawn dishwashing liquid
since it has the ability to dissolve grease. I don't spread it on thin, either, I
really lay it on thick and wash my suspected area of exposure several
you're at home, this procedure is easy. But, if you're outdoors with no sink in sight,
story. Since this website is devoted to photography
in the great outdoors, here are some first response ideas for contact when
you're not at home:
Rubbing alcohol can
dissolve the oil on the skin. I carry
rubbing alcohol pads in my first aid kit that can double for poison ivy duty.
The higher the concentration of alcohol, the better. Be
sure to follow up with washing the area as soon as possible.
Carry Dawn dishwashing liquid
(or any grease-removing dish detergent) with you. I put it in an empty film canister when I go
on photo shoots and when I am camping. Of course, you'll also need water to complete the
washing, so I carry some of that, too. A product called Technu is
also supposed to be good for oil removal, but I have never tried it
A product called
supposed to prevent problems with urushiol when applied per the directions.
I have never tried this method, but supposedly it will help protect the skin
from the oil in case it gets on you.
If possible, remove
contaminated clothing as soon as it's convenient or at least try to arrange
the clothing so it does not come in further
contact with your skin. (Of course, if you're walking through a field
with lots of possible ivy contact, having your clothing between you and ivy
will be better than bare skin. Just be prepared to wash your pants in Dawn
later.) If your camera strap got into it, take it off of your camera. I put
anything contaminated in plastic bags so I can wash it all in Dawn later.
Carry a homeopathic remedy called Rhus
Tox and start taking it (follow the directions on the bottle) the minute you
notice a rash or even sooner if you think you got into ivy. It's really
cheap, comes in a small container, and my friends swear
this stuff works. I carry it everywhere but I've never had a chance to field test
it. :) Carry
Benadryl or a similar histamine blocker in case the rash starts later, but try
Rhus Tox first because it won't knock you out like Benadryl.
crushed Jewelweed leaves or the pulp from Jewelweed stems on the area is supposed to be very helpful,
especially if done very soon after coming in contact with poison ivy.
Interestingly, Jewelweed always seems to grow near ivy. Jewelweed has a
beautiful orange flower on it when it blooms, but the photo below is just of
(common) or narrow
leafed plantain leaves are also supposed to be very helpful - just grab a few
leaves and crush them or chew them up a little, then apply to the area. Plantain
grows just about everywhere. As a bonus, it's edible and helps with bee stings
and other insect bites.
I have not had a chance to field test the effectiveness of Jewelweed or
plantain on poison ivy, but I know they both work well on mosquito bites.
Of course, avoidance is the
best remedy! You
can always remember these sayings:
“Leaves of 3, Let it
"Berries white, run in fright"
“If it’s hairy… it’s scary!”
(Refers to the vines... that's my personal favorite)
I HAVE THE
RASH.... NOW WHAT?!?!
of all, if you're having severe allergic reactions, go see a medical
not, there are tons of suggestions on the internet. Here are a few:
CERTAIN the oil is washed off of your skin in the shower before soaking in a
bathtub. If not, the oil may release into the bathwater and re-attach itself
to you when you're getting out of the tub
Use a cold, wet
compress to ease itching
Add about 5 cups
ground oatmeal or baking soda to a cool bath and soak for 15 to 30 minutes
Add baking soda
or Epsom salts to your bath or make a paste of either and apply it to the
rash. Get a lotion containing calamine, alcohol and zinc acetate since these
will dry the blisters and help speed the healing process.
antihistamine such as Benadryl.
plantain (as mentioned above) might also help.
seems to dry out the weepiness of the rash.
I have not tried
any of the above since it's been so long since I've gotten into ivy. However, I can tell you what
I or my friends have had work:
This is a homeopathic
remedy for poison ivy, oak and sumac rashes. My friend
Kat swears by this stuff. She said she'd gotten a small area of the rash and
started using Rhus Tox and it went away within 12 hours. I don't know how
effective it would be on large rashes, but it's cheap and easy to take and worth
a try. I order mine from www.iherb.com.
They offer very good natural remedies inexpensively and they ship very
Anti-Itch Cooling Gel For Kids (similar to what was "Rhuli"
I used Rhuli in the early
90's when I got into ivy and it was very effective. But, Rhuli was bought out by Band Aid and then just
disappeared off the market. The closest thing I've found with similar ingredients is "Benadryl
Anti-Itch Cooling Gel For Kids", however, I've heard it is not as effective.
I've had good luck with it on bug bites. It has similar ingredients to Rhuli (camphor,
menthol, and alcohol) which help to control the itch and help dry
out the rash, but I'm still aggravated that Rhuli is off the market.