When you go exploring a densely forested area behind your home as part of a fun fantasy about exploring jungles in a distant country with your little kids, chances are you just might come across some poison ivy. Just a word of warning about the very real dangers of playing pretend as a father with young kids in the actual world.
My lone experience dealing with poison ivy occurred more years ago than I care to mention. Consider it a lesson learned. The saying “leaves of three, let it be” is certainly catchy and memorable, but likely to do you very little good out there in the real world. Ever taken a close look at the ground when you are playing pretend in the woods with your kids? Probably not and if you have, you doubtlessly learned that there are lots of plants out there that at least seem to have three leaves. So what I did not learn from my poison ivy experience was how to instantly spot the poisonous plant. What I did learn from my poison ivy experience was how to keep it from becoming a big health issue.
The health issue of coming into contact with poison ivy can be huge. Or relatively small. That’s the thing about what to expect from poison ivy contain as it pertains to the health of your skin. I’ve know people who have come into contact with poison ivy whose skin practically looks like a raw ribeye steak by the time they’ve finished scratching. I get that way when bitten by insects that like to inject a little poison. Fortunately, I seem to be afflicted only moderately by poisonous plants.
My experience with poison ivy also revealed that I seem to be slow to show signs. Those people with skin like a raw steak? They were showing signs probably within minutes of exposure to the poison ivy. I didn’t even have an itch to scratch until the next day. Things started slow with a noticeable reddening on my skin in very thin lines that likely provided irrefutable evidence of the manner in which I made contact with the poison ivy. A few hours after waking, the lines had gotten redder and thicker and were soon accompanied by tiny little blisters. Tiny relative to the huge blisters I’ve seen on others, at least.
Having seen firsthand how negatively poison ivy can impact one’s health, I immediately jumped into the shower, mixed a little bleach in with water on a rag and lightly ran the washcloth from one end of the reddened lines to the other. I was expecting the worst, you see, and I learned from other victims that bleach is the ultimate go-to treatment for poison ivy.
Turns out, however, bleach should be the treatment of last resort. The fact was that the bleach made the pain unbelievably worse for me. So I washed it all out with cool water because I’d read somewhere back then that hot water aggravates itching and cool water helps it to subside. The science may have changed since then; you know how that goes. But it did work.
The upshot of my experience with a moderate case of poison ivy may well be comforting to you. I didn’t have to go through a whole host of home remedies to try to shorten the duration of my poison ivy experience. As soon as I got out of the shower, I took an antihistamine pill. I was useless for the rest of the day and even took a nap, but by the next day I was barely itching. I took another antihistamine that next night and woke up with barely any evidence of contact with the poison ivy. So there you have it.