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The Quick and Dirty Guide For Dealing With Poison Ivy

Photo by Jennifer Ryan Jones

Yard work sucks. And it sucks even more if you get stuck with a case of poison ivy. It takes a lot of work to get your backyard looking like an oasis. And you can't enjoy if  you're a hot, scratchy mess of weeping blisters. You don’t even have to be rolling around in the weeds for this poisonous plant to pack quite the wallop. Have you noticed that just rubbing up against the stuff can send you on a one-way trip to rash town? Us too. Here’s what we know.

“Leaves of three, let it be."

It pays to know what you’re looking at. Mature, summer poison ivy plants are green. But when they are first growing and in the fall their leaves can be red or orange too. Each leaf has three smaller leaves. And it's not just the leaves that will have you itching and scratching. Coming into contact with any part of the plant can lead to a ruthless rash and with an insane itch.

You have to be allergic to poison ivy to have a reaction.

Yep! This isn’t just an old wives tale. According to the American Skin Association, “About 85 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, and about 10 to 15 percent are extremely allergic. This is the most common allergic reaction in the U.S., and affects as many as 50 million Americans each year.” The plant isn’t the problem it is Urushiol, an oil that causes the extreme reaction. Be careful not to get this stuff on you, your shoes or your clothes as the residue can cause a poison ivy rash even months later.

Too late! You have poison ivy.

First, you have to wash your clothes, sheets, and towels. Anything that possibly came in contact with the poison ivy including your shoes needs to be thoroughly decontaminated. Remember, the Urushiol oil is tough to get rid of. Washing your clothes with detergent on the highest temperature should do the trick.

 Second, treat your skin. Cold compresses, calamine lotion and over the counter hydrocortisone cream will help clear things up. You can try an antihistamine, but it probably won't do much to stop the itchy and scratchy show.

Third, resist the itch. Scratching will pop the blisters, which can cause infection and make the rash even worse. Whatever you do, keep your fingers out of your eyes and your hands out of your pants.

You can also try these home remedies….

  • Rubbing Alcohol -As soon as you come in contact with this wicked weed, wipe down the area with rubbing alcohol it will kill the Urushiol.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – You can apply organic apple cider vinegar directly to the rash, and it will pull the poison from your skin. You can also use as a warm compress.
  • Oatmeal & Baking Soda Bath – Put ¾ cup of oats, ½ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of milk powder into a food processor. Blend into a fine powder and sprinkle into a warm bath. Soak in the tub for about twenty minutes and let the oatmeal's anti-inflammatory properties soothe your skin while the baking soda calms the itch.


This article was written and appeared on Grooming Lounge and our Founder, Mike Gilman, were quoted a lot, so we borrowed the article. Giving them credit -- hope it's OK.

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