Poison ivy grows all over the United States, as well as other parts of the world, and often presents a danger to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Even lightly brushing against poison ivy can result in itchy rashes and blistering. This reaction is the result of contact with urushiol, an oil that causes severe allergic reactions upon contact. Urushiol can be very difficult to remove, and the inflammation in your skin (dermatitis) may persist for days or weeks. There are a number of natural relievers that help alleviate poison ivy itch, all of which are easy to do at home. Bear in mind that these are often used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Always discuss home remedies and natural relievers with your doctor before using them.
The priority with any poison ivy contact is always to get the urushiol-containing resin off your skin as quickly as possible. This option only remains open for a few minutes after contact, so it’s always a good idea to carry soap with you when you’re outdoors in poison ivy country. The oil will not come off with water alone.
If you can get to soap and water within about 5 minutes of poison ivy contact, wash vigorously. Make sure that the water is cold, as warm water will open up the pores and potentially make the reaction much worse. If your hands have not already come into contact with the poison ivy, then use gloves or some other hand protection while washing if possible.
For a completely natural solution to washing, there are a number of plants that contain saponins and can help wash away urushiol. These include soapwort, horse chestnut and rose leaves. You can use either the pulverized plant, or parts of the plants that have been cut open to gain access to their sap.
Ice and cooling lotions
Keeping a poison ivy rash cool can help prevent its spread to other parts of the body. Because urushiol is such a potent allergen to most people, even trace amounts can cause problems within the body’s various tissues. Ice packs can help to slow this process and cool the poison ivy itch. Cooling lotions or ointments may also be helpful. Aloe vera soothes and moisturizes skin, and may work very well for alleviating the itch.
Showers and baths
After you’ve confirmed that all of the poison ivy has been removed from the rash site, then warm showers and baths may help soothe the itch. While this can help for some hours after you’ve soaked in the water, bear in mind that repeatedly wetting and drying the skin can dry it out and add irritation. Natural lotions and moisturizers such as cocoa butter may help prevent this problem.
Not only is oatmeal soothing, but it also has a number of nutrients that soothe the skin and help it heal. Compresses made of oatmeal that has been cooked and then cooled may be beneficial in relieving the poison ivy itch.
The plant Impatiens capensis has increasingly shown benefits in both alleviating and preventing the rash from poison ivy. By crushing the stems of this plant and rubbing it on the area that came into contact with the poison ivy, you may dramatically decrease the effects of urushiol. The reason for this is that jewelweed contains a compound called lawsone, which does not have the same reactions with the skin that poison ivy does, but that binds to the same parts of the skin. In effect, it’s directly shielding the skin from poisonous bonds.
While it hasn’t been proven by the FDA — like most natural remedies — there is a lot of evidence to back up the use of a poultice made from plantain leaves in alleviating poison ivy itch. This can include a number of different varieties in the plantago species, as all appear to have a similar effect. Simply apply the pulverized leaves directly to the affected skin and let sit for a while. You should experience a lessening of the itching almost immediately, and it may help fade the rash over time.