If you see a vine growing up a tree inspect it a little better before touching it. Poison ivy grows on vines that look a bit hairy. There are always three leaves clustered together that are almond shaped and dark to light green. The leaves do not have thorns but may have a serrated edge. The leaves are usually very shiny and they will turn red in the fall and fall off the vine. These leaves contain urushiol which is an oil that can make a grown man or woman cry.
The oil of this plant can cause a rash that rivals no other. It causes an itch that never stops and it also hurts. Without attention this oil can spread everywhere and even invade the inside of the body through the nose, eyes, mouth and genitals. If this happens to you do not wait to try any home remedies. Just get to an emergency room immediately as the condition could turn fatal.
Under normal conditions the rash presents itself by a reddening of the skin, bumps and blisters. Traditionally the rash has been treated with a coating of Calamine lotion so that it will dry out and stop itching. The rash is brought on by an allergy to the urushiol and most people are affected by it, yet there are many who do not have any reaction when touching the plant.
The rash can start within a few hours. Most of the time it takes about 12 to 48 hours for it to show up but the itching will start prior to that. If you take quick action you may get away with having the rash for just one week. In most cases it lasts an agonizing three to four weeks.
Poison Ivy does not have to be touched to get a rash. Never burn the plant either dead or alive because the oil travels through the air in the smoke and if it is inhaled it can get into the lungs and be fatal. A dog that runs in poison ivy can give it to its owner just by having them pet him while the oil is still on his fur. Be careful when cleaning dead vines from your yard ad poison ivy can harbor the harmful oil for almost 2 years after the vine has died.
If you are pulling weeds and all of a sudden you see a poison ivy leaf swiftness is essential. Go quickly within 10 minutes and clean whatever part of the body you think touched the leaf with rubbing alcohol. Take the hose and hose down the area and always use cold water because warm or hot water will allow the harmful oil to spread. Never get in a bathtub of cold water because you will spread the oil to other parts of your body. Just rinse off the areas that were touched.
Get disposable gloves on your hands and take off your shoes and your clothing. Hop into the shower and wash yourself down with grease repelling dish washing soap. Avoid the type that has lotion and do not use regular soap. Once you are done put more gloves on and wash down your shoes and clothing that you were wearing with a combination of alcohol and water. If you would rather throw the clothing away you can but do not put it in a washer without wiping it down. This could spread the oil to the rest of the family through their clothing.
To treat the rash you can use an oral antihistamine and apply steroid cream. Often times a doctor will give you a shot of a steroid. A bath with 3 tablespoons of baking soda might stop the itching for awhile. Another old remedy is to make Old Fashion style oatmeal by boiling the oatmeal in water. Once it is cool apply it to the rash in a thick layer. This dries and as long as the air does not hit the rash it does not itch. This is a little messy because the oatmeal tends to flake off. You can cover it with gauze bandages loosely.
There are several other remedies like dabbing on some vinegar to the rash to draw the oils and infection from the skin. This will sting like the dickens but once it air dries you will find it feels much better. Covering the rash with honey is another messy method but this can also be wrapped with gauze. An unusual remedy is to take a banana out of the peel then place the part of peel that touched the banana against the affected skin to cool the inflammation. Prevention is the best thing to strive for where poison ivy is concerned. Do not touch it if you can help it and if you find you have sprint into action. If you see that the rash is especially severe, is near the eyes, nose, mouth or genitals or if the area swells badly you need to go to the emergency room immediately.