Who doesn’t do a bit of gardening in spring? I personally find that gloves are quite uncomfortable but I got used to working in them over time. Initially, I think I was put off by wearing cheap, badly woven and uncomfortable gloves that did not fit properly.
Now, let’s say you are gardening without your gloves, mowing your lawn, pruning trees and all of a sudden, you start experiencing excruciating pain and itching on your arm, feet or hands. Your first reaction would be checking whether you have a cut. The next thing you would probably do is to check whether an animal or insect has bitten you.
Most of us would be worried sick especially when we find there is no blood or physical harm but the agonizing pain remains. If the affected area develops into an itchy rash, you have most likely developed an allergic reaction to Poison Ivy.
First Things First, What Is Poison Ivy?
Poison Ivy is a plant, which belongs to the family of Anacardiaceae. This plant is mainly found in Canada and the USA. The poison ivy rash is caused by an allergic reaction to an oily resin referred as urushiol. Sorry what? Pronounced yoo-roo-shee-ol. One more time yoo-roo-shee-ol. This substance is found in the stems, flower, leaves, and roots of poison ivy, poison sumac as well as the poison oak and is a colorless and odourless oil contained in the leaves of the plant.
Surprisingly, the oily resin remains active for a long period of time even after the plant has died. When your skin is exposed to the tiniest amount of this substance, there’s an eighty to ninety percent chance of developing a rash.
What Causes Poison Ivy?
The poison ivy rash normally develops when you come into direct contact with urushiol when you touch the plant. There’s also a chance of airborne contact when you burn the plant as the urushiol particles may end up on your skin. Besides affecting your skin, the urushiol can seriously affect your lungs, throat and nasal passages when inhaled.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eighty-five percent (yes 85%) of the US population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak. And 1 out of every 7 to 10 people (ten to fifteen percent) has a severe allergic to poison ivy, making it one of the most common allergic reaction in the US and affecting up to 50 million Americans.
How To Recognize Poison Ivy?
Don’t spoil your summer fun by coming in contact with the mighty poison ivy plant? There’s a good chance for you to cross path with it while gardening, sightseeing or hunting. It grows as a bush or vine and you may find the vines climbing the sides of trees or structures. Therefore, learning how to identify it will allow you to avoid it.
The plants usually have three pointed leaves that change color from one season to the other. They usually have a reddish color in spring, green in summer and yellow or orange in fall. Some varieties have notched edges while others have smooth leaf edges with pointed tips. The plants have white berries, which are a favorite meal to birds. Once a bird eats the berries, they usually transplant the seeds to other areas along with their droppings, hence the reason that these plants are overly widespread.
How Do I Get Rid Of Poison Ivy?
Anyone who is exposed to the poison ivy plant is at risk of developing a painful rash and blisters. Obviously, the risk becomes higher for those that spend more time in the outdoors and in areas where the plants are known to grow in abundance.
These include people who work in the construction industry, gardeners, farmers, forestry workers as well as groundkeepers. Hunters and hiking enthusiasts are also potentially at risk in some parts of the country where there is a large population of these plants.
Some of the classic signs of poison ivy include redness, itching, swelling as well as painful blisters. I’ll also add to the list – breathing difficulties if you have accidentally inhaled the smoke from burning it. So the question is: how can I get rid of poison ivy?
If you have suffered the unfortunate episode of getting into contact with a poison ivy plant, there are a few things that you can do to try mitigate the symptoms. This involves the use of over the counter medications, essential oils as well as natural home remedies.
Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Poison Ivy
A number of natural remedies can reduce the effect and severity of the symptoms of the poison ivy rash. These include rinsing the area with cold water within one hour of contact, rubbing the area with some alcohol, washing off with dishwashing liquid soap and using ice to close the skin’s pores. Additionally, removing any clothes that came into contact with the plant will help in reducing the likelihood of the rash spreading further.
First aid treatment
- Easy options to administer
- Ingredients are readily available
- Helps to control the symptoms before the rashes gets worse
- Limits the blister to a small area as it can spread especially when you scratch
- Only offer first aid and this may not be enough to contain the rash
- Works well only when applied within the first hour or so
Over-the-counter (OTC) medication
Some of the over-the-counter medication that you can use include antihistamine, corticosteroid cream and calamine lotion. Pills that contain diphenhydramine such as antihistamine offer you with the much-needed help to combat the allergic reaction to poison ivy. Applying a steroid cream such as corticosteroid is also beneficial in reducing the inflammation, swelling and redness in the skin.
The use of calamine lotion will also offer relief to the skin and help to calm down the itch; it can also help you resist scratching, reducing the chances of spreading the rash further.
- May offer lasting calming effects
- Applying a cream or taking medication can potentially eradicate all the symptoms of the rash
- You’ll need to apply the cream liberally for a calming effect
- You may develop skin complications such as thinning of the skin. With long-term use, the skin may develop stretch marks or even be subject to discoloration
- Topical steroids may trigger other skin disorders such as acne and rosacea
- Hair may start to grow on the area of skin being treated
- Steroids can get through the skin and into the bloodstream
- With antihistamines, you may experience drowsiness, dizziness and nausea
With such a long list of side effects from the OTC medication, these are definitely not for me!
Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant from which they are extracted from and their medicinal benefits are definitely your best bet against poison ivy rashes. They offer fast and effective results, with little to no side effects.
Essential oils contain anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that reduce the swelling and soothe the itching. Some of the best essential oil for poison ivy treatment includes tea tree, myrrh, peppermint, cypress, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils.
- Offers fast and efficient results
- Easy to apply
- Safe to use
- Gentle on your skin
- No long term side effects
- You need to be careful with some essential oils on children, pregnant women and the elderly
7 Best Essential Oils For Poison Ivy?
1. Tea tree
Tea tree is perhaps the best essential oil to treat the poison ivy rash due to its anti-fungal, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial properties. Its anti-inflammatory properties will help bring down the swelling and redness within a few minutes of application. You can also use tea tree oil as a disinfectant prior to any other forms of treatment or even use it to promote healing.
Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil in 1 ounce of water. Dip a cotton ball into the mix and gently wipe over the poison ivy rash to cleanse and disinfect.
Cypress oil has antiseptic properties that make it effective against the poison ivy rash. You will need to wait for the rashes to open up and form blisters before using applying it.
Dilute 4 drops in 1 tsp of aloe vera gel and apply to the rash areas for quick healing. Alternatively, add 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup witch hazel and add 8 drops of cypress essential oil in a glass spray bottle. Spray onto the affected areas.
I am sure most of us are familiar with the fresh, cool scent of this oil. Peppermint essential oil has anti-inflammatory as well as analgesic properties that are excellent in soothing the allergic reaction to poison ivy and it is also an excellent choice when treating mosquito bites. Peppermint also reduces swelling and relieves the itching. Additionally, this essential oil provides a cooling sensation that calms the rash and numbs the pain effectively.
Simply add 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil to 6 ounces of witch hazel in a spray bottle. Spray on the affected areas for immediate relief. You can also dilute a few drops in a carrier oil (almond, olive oil) and apply it directly to the rash.
The essential oil of myrrh has antiseptic properties and is effective in dealing with poison ivy rashes. Myrrh is also hydrating as well as moisturizing.
If your poison ivy rash has spread all over your skin, simply fill your bathtub with 2 tsp of coconut oil, 1-2 cups of oats and 15 drops of myrrh essential oil. Soak in for about 25 minutes to cool the rash.
Eucalyptus essential oil has strong anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial qualities that are very effective in treating rashes of poison ivy, oak and sumac. It will numb the itch, soothe the pain and calm the inflamed skin. Eucalyptus is also an outstanding essential oil when it comes to pain relief.
You can make a cold compress as follows: add 8-12 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a bowl of cold water. Stir well, dip a clean soft cloth in the liquid and wring gently. Apply to the affected areas. Repeat multiple times.
6. Roman chamomile
This mild but potent essential oil is safe to use even on infants and on the most sensitive skin. It is known to offer a calming effect whilst reducing pain and inflammation of any skin allergies. Chamomile essential oil is very effective in relieving itchy, red and swollen rashes caused by poison ivy as well as for skin burns.
Mix 5 drops of roman chamomile essential oil in 2 tsp of aloe vera gel and apply to the rash areas for much needed relief.
As we all know, lavender is the “swiss-army” of essential oils and one which all households should have. It has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and offers a soothing and healing effect to the rash. Lavender also offers fast relief for other allergic skin reactions such as psoriasis, hives, eczema, shingles, athlete’s foot, etc.
Add 8 drops lavender essential oil to 1 tsp salt and mix in 2 tsp of colloidal oatmeal and stir in some water to form a smooth paste. Apply this paste on your rash and leave it for 30-45 mins to alleviate inflammation and itching.
7 Best Essential Oil Recipes For Poison Ivy
Here are some easy and extremely effective essential oils that you can use as a treatment for poison ivy. Good luck!
1. Essential oils and Apple Cider Vinegar blend
This is perhaps one of the most effective recipes against poison ivy which you can use immediately upon developing the rash.
What you need
- 4 tsp distilled water
- 2 tsp himalayan pink salt
- 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 drops Roman Chamomile (optional)
- 6 drops Tea Tree
- 5 drops Lavender
- 4 drops Peppermint
Mix all ingredients, ensuring that the salt dissolves completely. Stir the mixture well before use. Dab this mixture onto the affected areas two to three times a day or when the itching becomes unbearable. This will help you get rid of the poison ivy, oak and sumac rash overnight.
2. Lavender, peppermint essential oils and lemon juice recipe
Lemon comes with refreshing and cleansing properties that are beneficial in treating poison ivy. Although mostly used for its disinfectant properties, lemon juice is helpful when combating rashes causing by allergies, especially when used together with peppermint and lavender oils. The combination of lemon juice, witch hazel, essential oils will aid to soothe and cure the rash fast.
What you need
- 8 drops of peppermint oil
- 6 drops of lavender oil
- 5 tsp of natural lemon juice
- 2 tsp of witch hazel
- Glass jar with a lid
- Cotton wool
Add the essential oils to the lemon juice and witch hazel. Mix well in a glass container with a lid. Dab a cotton ball in the blend and apply to the affected rash and blister areas as often as required to get rid of poison ivy rash within a day or so.
3. Alcohol, chamomile and peppermint oil recipe
Alcohol helps in breaking the urushiol oils; peppermint offers its anti-inflammation while the chamomile offers to relieve for pain, swelling, and irritability.
What you need
- A clean glass jar with a lid
- 4 drops of peppermint oil
- 6 drops of chamomile oil
- 2 tsp of alcohol
- Cotton wool ball
Mix all ingredients in a glass jar. Soak the cotton ball in the mixture and rub on the affected areas. This will not only help wash off the urushiol oil but also offer a soothing effect while reducing the inflammation of the poison ivy blisters.
4. Poison ivy remedy using blend of essential oils
What you need
- 3 drops myrrh
- 2 drops peppermint
- 4 drops lavender
- 3 drops roman chamomile
- 2 drops cypress
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tsp water
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or witch hazel
Add all ingredients to a small glass bowl and mix well. Apply to the affected areas to cure the rash fast. Alternatively, if you want to form a paste, add 2 tsp tablespoon of this mixture to ground oats and apply generously.
5. Poison ivy healing anti-itch recipe
What you need
- 6 drops roman chamomile
- 5 drops lavender
- 8 drops cypress
- 3 ounces aloe vera gel
Only use this recipe when the rash has commenced drying up. Mix all ingredients well and apply to soothe the terrible itch. Cypress will aid with further drying, lavender and chamomile will help soothe the discomfort whilst aloe vera will assist with the healing. Always use an unscented lotion together with a few drops of peppermint essential oil to help heal the dried rash.
6. Oatmeal bath soak to deal with poison ivy rash
What you need
- 2 cups oats
- 2 drops peppermint
- 3 drops lavender
- 1 pound baking soda
Fill up your bath tub and add the baking soda to it. Place the cheesecloth on a flat surface and add the oats and essential oils and tie up. Put in the bath and soak in. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
7. Coconut oil recipe for poison ivy rash
Although coconut oil is not an essential oil, it is quite useful when treating poison ivy rashes. It contains anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve the itchiness as well as reducing the pus in the rash.
What you need
- Organic cold pressed virgin coconut oil
- Cotton wool
- Basin full of clean water
Rub the coconut oil on the affected areas. Allow a few minutes for the pus to start oozing out. Wipe using cotton wool. Repeat this process until the pus stops oozing. Bandage the rash and repeat the process again later in the day.
The affected areas will dry completely after 4-5 days of this coconut oil treatment. Adding 2-3 drops of chamomile oil to a teaspoon of coconut oil before applying to the rash also reduces the itchiness and swelling of the rash.
5 Best Home Remedies For Poison Ivy?
Besides using the above essential oil recipes, you can also make use of ingredients found in your kitchen to cure the symptoms of the poison ivy, oak and sumac rash. Although there are many home based remedies that you can use, I am going to list the top 5 that offer fast and long-lasting results.
1. Apple cider vinegar
Raw organic ACV is the one of the best natural cure to treat poison ivy. Firstly, it’s available in almost every kitchen, hence can be applied as soon as you come into contact with the poison ivy, oak or sumac plant. It will help control and reduce the symptoms of the rash before it has the chance to spread over a larger area. The ACV helps to heal the rash as it breaks the urushiol oils. It is also known to offer a cooling effect and will reduce the itching. In addition, it inhibits the spread of the rash. Applying the apple cider vinegar is simple – pour some of it over a cotton ball and dab onto the rash and let it sit till it evaporates. For a more pronounced effect, add a few drops of essential oil of your choice to the ACV prior to application.
2. Baking soda paste
A baking soda paste also does a great job in drawing the poisons from the skin. It will also sooth the already formed rash. Mix equal parts of baking soda powder and water to form a paste. Dab it onto the rash and let it set until it dries. Rinse with water. You can repeat this process several times a day until the rash disappears. Once more, for an enhanced effect, add a few drops of essential oil to the paste.
3. Cold coffee
Another effective home remedy for poison ivy is cold coffee, sounds weird…well it kinda works. Coffee beans contains many acids, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the poison ivy rash, bringing the redness and swelling down. Prepare a cup of regular coffee and keep it in the refrigerator until cold. Pour the cold coffee on the rash directly and use a cotton ball to dab it on. Repeat as required.
4. Run cold water on the affected area
Rinsing the affected area with lots of cold water within an hour or two will reduce the symptoms of the poison ivy, oak and sumac rash. Simply direct a stream of cold water to the affected area and avoid touching it as you can transfer the urushiol to other areas. The reason for using cold water is that your skin pores will close on contact with it and therefore enable you to wash the oils away, rather than them getting deeper into the skin.
5. Take an oatmeal bath
Oatmeal is a skin-soothing agent that also does wonders in cooling a poison ivy rash. You can either use it as a paste or add in a bath to create a relaxing soak. Grind a cup of oatmeal using a blender, add it to a bathtub full of warm water and soak yourself in the bathtub for 15-20 minutes to help deal with the rash and itch.
How To Prevent Poison Ivy Rash?
Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Here are some of the ways you can avoid getting into contact with the poison ivy rash in the first place.
- Avoid areas where you know the poison ivy, oak or sumac plant grows in abundance
- When gardening cover yourself with closed shoes, socks, long sleeves, long pants, and good gardening gloves.
- Wash any clothes that come in contact with the poisonous plants as soon as possible
- Wash your gardening tools and other outdoor items with dishwashing liquid soap and water regularly
The Bottom Line
Anyone who’s ever suffered a poison ivy rash can attest to the pain and irritation it causes. Treatment of poison ivy exposure does not generally require hospitalization and can be dealt with at home. Although there is no specific cure for the poison ivy rash, using the above methods will help you soothe the itching and pain. Making use of the essential oils and home remedies will offer you with a fast relief and enhance the healing process.
However, if you find yourself having severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, rash on your genitals or face, or find the rash covering a large area of your body, consult your doctor immediately.