Outdoor summer fun in the south means encountering poison ivy. The rash-causing plant thrives virtually everywhere and is resilient enough to re-generate after being uprooted and being repeatedly doused with chemicals. With all that going for poison ivy a short walk to retrieve the mail from a rural roadside mailbox could mean coming into contact with it and developing an itching, burning rash that will take days to get rid of. The best way to deal with a poison ivy rash is to prevent it, but when it’s too late and you have already developed fluid-filled blisters that are maddeningly itchy, there’s still hope for a cure.
Anything that comes between your skin and the plant will build a protective barrier and help prevent the rash-causing plant oil (urushiol) from irritating skin. Boots, knee sock, long pants, long sleeves and gloves will do the trick, but there are two drawbacks. One, the winter-wear garb is hot in the southern summer when poison ivy is growing and two, if clothing comes into contact with the plant and gets urushiol oil on the fabric, you can still develop an itchy rash if your skin comes into contact with oil-laden fabric.
Creating a lotion barrier on the skin with a lotion containing bentoquatam works to prevent a rash by preventing the urushiol from binding to the skin. Apply the bentoquatam-containing lotion at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. For those especially sensitive to urushiol, applying the lotion and wearing protective clothing is the safest way to go.
Then for people like myself who have a very high tolerance to the rash-inducing urushiol, a thick layer of sunscreen applied to all exposed skin just before heading outside prevents a poison ivy rash from developing if I come into contact with the plant. I also don gloves and appropriate foot wear so as to not tempt fate. After developing the rash once, it’s not something I wish to re-visit.
Wash skin immediately with soap and water after coming into contact with the plant to remove the rash-causing plant oil and lessen the risk of developing a painful rash.
If skin begins to redden, develop blisters and/or itch. Begin treating with an over-the-counter topical ointment formulated for poison ivy rash. Soaking affected skin are in cool water to which oatmeal or baking soda has been placed also helps relieve the itch. If rash spreads and pain intensifies, a visit to the doctor will garner you some relief with a steroid treatment.
A home remedy for poison ivy rash which works well in my household is to make a thin paste with a teaspoon of baking soda and 2-3 teaspoons of white vinegar and apply to the affected area. Apply as often as needed to stop itching. The home remedy will dry up the fluid-filled blisters and rash within a few days.