I hope that treating poison ivy is not part of your next camping trip!
Since avoiding poison ivy is better than treating poison ivy, I'll teach you how to recognize the plants so you can stay away from them.
If worse comes to worst and you do get a rash from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac, I'll tell you what to do about it.
Although poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are completely different plants, they all have an oil called urushiol on their leaves and stems.
In most people, urushiol causes a rash which can range from mildly itchy to excruciatingly painful.
Think again! Even if you have contacted the oil in the past with no reaction, you may react to it in the future.
Since poison ivy is the most common of the three plants, I'll speak here of treating poison ivy - but all of this information applies to poison oak and poison sumac too.
The best approach is to avoid poison ivy completely. Then you'll never need to know about treating poison ivy!
Sadly, poison ivy identification is not simple. There are many varieties of poison ivy - and they all contain urushiol.
Poison ivy can be
Depending on the type of plant and the season, the leaves may be
The leaves may have smooth or jagged edges.
They might be largish or smallish or in between!
There's no easy answer to that, either.
Poison ivy can grow in the open or in the woods.
It can grow in a moist or dry area. It can grow in sand or in a swamp!
With all of that variability, how can I possibly identify poison ivy?
No matter their size, they will be sort of oval in shape.
Each leaf is made of three leaflets.
The stalk of the middle leaflet is longer than the stalk of the leaflets on the sides.
I think that the best idea is just to avoid any plant with clusters of three leaves! Since a poison ivy rash can be extremely miserable, it's better to be safe than sorry!
If you think that you may have touched poison ivy (or urushiol oil from any source) you need to remove the oil from your skin immediately, before it has a chance to penetrate. Here's how:
Don't have such a product on hand? Use rubbing alcohol. If you don't have a bottle of alcohol handy, get the alcohol swabs from your first aid kit and swab the affected area.
Don't have alcohol swabs either? Wash the area with beer or another alcoholic beverage.
You want to flush the oil away completely, not just move it around, so be sure to use lots of water.
Don't use hot water, which will open your pores and let in more oil.
If worst comes to worst and you do contract a rash, there is nothing you can do to speed up your healing.
The rash has to run its course, which can take up to two weeks.
You can reduce the itching and pain. Here's what to do for treating poison ivy:
I haven't tried any of these for treating poison ivy so I can't recommend them - but I'm guessing that they can't hurt, and might help:
Benzocaine will irritate your skin further and will delay your healing.
If you have poison ivy blisters, don't break them!
If they break on their own, treat them as you would treat any other blisters:
Don't worry - the fluid from the blister does not contain urushiol, and cannot spread the rash.
In some cases, a poison ivy rash can be extreme.
You might want to take an over-the-counter antihistamine. Talk to the pharmacist for help in choosing the right one for you.
Some extreme cases will require medical attention.
Your doctor might prescribe a corticosteroid cream.
I wish you a camping holiday free of poison ivy!