Friday, September 26, 2008

Poison Ivy: My Home (and non-home) Remedies

It's back. This was the first summer that I didn't get poison ivy -- or so I thought. I typically get a terrible case in June. It can be tough to figure out where it came from because sometimes it doesn't emerge until DAYS after the garden work was done. Other times it will emerge on places on my body that would never have come in contact with the leaves -- like my stomach. There are certain areas of my body that seem to be weakened or more susceptible. I've gotten on my neck, my face, my ears, armpits, ankles and between the toes, but its usually on my lower arms. The itch can be debilitating -- I've called in sick because of it.

Most over the counter products don't work for me. Some that lots of people swear by are Technu soap and Zanfel. I found that these took off the oils and helped the itching for a little while. Zanfel did seem to help stop spreading, but the itch came back. Ivy-Dry helped the itch -- for about 20 minutes. Below are a few things that I think work:

1) Prevention

Fels-Naptha soap. This soap is meant to be used for laundry. It's very strong and corrosive so you shouldn't leave it on your skin for too long. But it will strip any poison ivy oil that is left on your skin right off. It's also cheap - less than $2. Unlike Technu. Try to get in the shower within 2 hours of being exposed.

2) Stopping the Spreading

Chlorine Bleach. I learned about this remedy by asking a pharmacist what he thought the best cure for poison ivy was. He said to take 1 part bleach and 2 parts water and wash with it. I've taken it a step farther - rather I've taken this advice to the crazy extreme. The best way to stop blisters in their tracks is to APPLY THE BLEACH DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR BLISTER with a Q-tip. Just a little dab. It might sting a little, but within a day or so, the bleach will have neutralized the oils, and the blisters will dry up and start to scab over and flake off. Once the bleach is applied, the blisters won't spread. Make sure you let the bleach dry completely before putting your clothes back on. (I learned the hard way.)

3) Itch

These are the two best products for itching and I use them alternately. The Benadryl is a nice cool gel and feels good at bedtime. Cortizone 10 (or Cortaid) will take the swelling and redness down.

4) Last ditch effort. Prednisone (cortisone tablets)

My doc is used to writing me a prescription for this every summer when I decide I can't take it anymore. The relief is significant after 1 day, but you have to take it for 10.

What else works??


Kathleen said...

These are all great tips Jen (sounds like you've had way too much experience with it). Lucky for me, I haven't had poison ivy since I was a kid. If I were getting it like you, I'd probably give up gardening (gulp)!

Joanne said...

Is there a way to eliminate the plant? I've heard a vinegar spray kills it?

JGH said...

Hey Kathleen and Joanne--
I'm trying very hard to remove all traces of the plant from my garden, but since it's very invasive, there seem to be lots of roots spreading around. I try to be entirely organic, but this is the one plant I feel viscious enough to use an herbicide on! I will definitely try the vinegar.

Joanne said...

I'm curious to know if the vinegar spray works, let us know!

Kitt said...

Good tips! I've never suffered from poison ivy, but I don't know if that's because I've managed to avoid making contact with it or because I'm immune. I'm beginning to suspect the latter, because I walked through a big patch of poison oak last weekend without realizing it. I fretted over every little itch for hours after, but no rash ever materialized.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I don't plan to test that theory deliberately! If I ever do succumb, I'll remember your hints!

tut-tut said...

With the warming of the planet, vines like poison ivy will be more vigorous and invasive.