Poison ivy – We’ve probably all had it or know of someone who has come in contact with this plant. But what is it exactly and how do you get it? More importantly, how do you get rid of it?
What is Poison Ivy?
Poison Ivy is a plant with groups of three shiny leaves that is best avoided. Come into contact with this plant and you will surely know it because you will most likely obtain a very awful, irritating rash. Poison ivy causes a rash in 90% of the people who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with it.
Why the Rash?
What causes the rash is urushiol oil, which is on the surface of the leaves of poison ivy and can also be found in sumac and poison oak. Getting this oil directly on your skin or even on your clothes can leave you with a nasty rash that itches uncontrollably. Although itching doesn’t spread it, you can create an open wound that can become infected. The rash is most commonly spread by touching it, and is spread easily – even when mowing or burning brush. Even coming into contact with clothing that has brushed against one of these plants can give you the rash. Urushiol oil is actually an irritant and not a poison.
No one has ever died from getting one of these rashes that anyone knows of, but people with compromised immune systems can develop a form of dermatitis. Only people with severe reactions to the oil will probably have to be taken to the hospital to be seen professionally because the rash can be bad enough to cause swelling that swells their eyes shut and also blisters than can open up on the skin. They may be given shots of corticosteroids to lessen the swelling. These people only make up about 10-20 percent of the allergic population.
Treatments for Poison Ivy
- The first defense is frequent hand-washing so the oil is not spread any farther.
- Washing any clothing that could have come into contact with the plant is important as well.
- Soaking in baths with baking soda and Epsom salts can help soothe the rash.
- Mixtures of baking soda and oatmeal can also be used to apply directly to the rash.
- Over the counter medications are still used, such as calamine lotion, Caladryl, Benadryl and Desitin. You can also buy things like an Aveeno oatmeal bath to soak and soothe the irritation.
Of course, the best method for a poison ivy rash is to avoid the poison ivy plant altogether. Educating yourself first on what it looks like is obviously the most important step. It is easy to recognize. It grows low to the ground, rarely over 2 feet high and has branches with bunches of three shiny leaves on them. When you know you are going to be going through areas where the plants are likely to be growing, make sure you wear clothing that covers your body such as long socks, long pants, and close-toed shoes.