Poison Ivy – Strategies to Avoid Suffering from the Rash

For anyone that has broken out in the itchy rash that is the result of coming in contact with Poison Ivy you know it is something to be avoided.  Personally, I generally do not suffer from incidental contact, but my wife is really affected from any small contact.  After one occasion where it kept coming back even when she had not come in contact with the plant caused me to do some research.  Below are my findings as I understand things, your mileage may very.

Poison Ivy – What Causes the Irritation?

For most people it is the oil on the leaves or vine that causes the problem.  When it gets on your skin you will break out with a rash that is very itchy.  It is important to note that it is this oil that can be spread to other parts of your body.  Only when that oil is still on your skin will scratching cause it to spread.  The blisters that form and the fluid in them will not cause a reaction someplace else.

How to Avoid A Reaction to Poison Ivy

If you come in contact with poison ivy it is important to get that oil off of your skin as soon as possible.  However this oil is very hard to get off, it tenaciously sticks to your skin and clothing.  You know you sometimes you get grease on your hands and it takes several washings to get it off, poison ivy oil is the same way.

A commercial product specifically designed to do this is Tecnu but a dishwashing liquid that is good at cutting grease and oil will work as well.  Another option that works differently is Hydrogen PerOxide which chemically oxidizes the poison ivy oil, changing it so that it no longer causes the irritation.

Keep in mind that the oil can also be on your clothing and gear and will remain able to cause a breakout for months, depending on how sensitive you are to it.  I know of a case where someone was getting a breakout even when they had not been outside.  It turns out there was a jacket they put on after getting the poison ivy oil on their skin.  The oil transferred from skin to jacket and then the next time the jacket was worn (more than a month later) resulted in another breakout from the oil on the jacket.

It has been reported that you do not want to wash your skin with hot water.  This tends to open up your pores and the oil gets deeper into your skin and even harder to get off.  Further, this can spread the oil making it worse.  I know of someone that got in poison ivy and took a very hot shower and spread it over a good portion of his body.  Wash your exposed skin well before getting in the shower.

Wash Your Clothes Well

You need to do a good job of washing your clothes.  I generally will run them through a couple of cycles in the washing machine and I am generous with the amount of soap.  Bleach will also help, which is why I dress in old clothes when I work in areas where there is poison ivy.  Further if you have walked through some low growing poison ivy you will have the oil on your shoes and laces.

Pet Fur

Your pets can pick up the oil and transfer it to you.  Keep that in mind if you keep getting breakouts and cannot figure out where it is coming from.

  • It is the oil that causes the reaction if it is spreading you are getting more oil from somewhere.
  • Get the oil off of your skin ASAP using a soap that is good at cutting through oils.  Tecnu if you have it or something like Dawn dishwashing liquid.  If it gets the oil and grease off after working on your car it will probably get the poison ivy oil off.
  • Don’t forget to clean clothes and any gear you had when you encountered the poision ivy.

Author: Jerry Ward

Working on creating a 10 acre urban homestead in S.E. Michigan. To pay the bills I work as a product manager/business analyst in the IT field. Now the admin of Save Our Skills