Poison Ivy
June 12, 2005 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know of any in-house remedies for poison ivy? Any suggestions to make the itch go away?
posted by moooshy to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Make a paste of Fels Naptha soap&water, spread it on the itch, don't wash it off, let it absorb on the contacted skin. Don't scratch. This works .
posted by hortense at 9:35 PM on June 12, 2005

Our new property is infested with the stuff so I'm well familiar with this. Basically there's nothing you can do once you have it except wait out the 7-14 days until it's gone.

- CalaGel (available at CVS and Wal-Mart) is the holy grail. OK, this isn't a in-house remedy, but I think you're really shorting yourself if you don't get some.
- Cool wind. Go bicycling a lot if you enjoy it), or just sit in front of a fan or A/C.
- Anything that keeps you occupied/distracted.
- I've heard some folks go to the doctor for shots (hydrocortisone I think), but I haven't tried it. Topical hydrocortisone didn't seem to do much, CalaGel worked much better.

- Stress
- Boredom
- Relaxation (presumably it opens up your sensory inputs, so a warm bath may not be the best idea).
- Scratching a lot... I've heard deep scratches allow the urushiol oil to travel, and I suspect there may be a grain of truth to this... when I leave the rash alone it doesn't seem to get out of hand.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:39 PM on June 12, 2005

Well, I've not had it, but the first thing I'd grab for in this case is calamine lotion.
posted by shepd at 11:12 PM on June 12, 2005

If you're lucky enough to have it in your backyard, there's a type of plant called "jewelweed" that has stems that look nearly transparent, like fibreglass. You break open the stem and rub the sap or "milk" on the affected skin, and it provides relief.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:30 AM on June 13, 2005

Is this the same as stinging nettles?

If so, dock leaves will help. In the UK they always grow next to each other.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a similar plant growing next to the poison ivy.
posted by sconbie at 1:46 AM on June 13, 2005

I always found that swimming in chlorinated water helped dry it out and make things generally better. Swimming keeps your mind off of it, the cool water soothes, and I'm pretty sure the chlorine does something to the oils that cause the itch. Maybe I'm wrong on this last point and someone can tell me that the oil then floats on top of the water, risking transmission of the rash to everyone else using the pool.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:47 AM on June 13, 2005

I have heard both the Fels Naptha and jewelweed treatments, but not tried them.

Fels Naptha is usually in the laundry section of the supermarket. It's a largish rectangular bar.

Jewelweed likes damp areas without too much direct sun. It produces seed pods 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, with a spring in them. When they're mature, touching them makes them explode.

AFAIK, poison ivy only grows in North America.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:35 AM on June 13, 2005

When I get this, I get it bad, and the only thing that helps is a course of prednisone (steriods), which the doctor gladly provides after one glance at the blistering and the oozing etc. That takes 3-4 days to work. In the meantime I found that a very hot shower -- as hot as you can stand it, and then a bit more -- directed right on the affected area feels very, very good, and makes the itch go away for a half hour or so. Not much, but it might be enough to get you to sleep at night.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:35 AM on June 13, 2005

This suggestion doesn't quite pass the "home remedy" test, but it does pass the "no doctor involved" test. It's not cheap, but it works.
posted by FredFeral at 3:51 AM on June 13, 2005

Benadryl. Since no one has mentioned it. You should always have some in the house, as it's good for those occasional minor disasters (works on bee & wasp stings too), as well as the nights you can't sleep. Generic's pretty cheap.
The last time I was exposed to poison ivy, I wasn't allergic to it and I avoid it like the plague anyway, but I've used it for insect stings and it works well for that, which they tell me is also an allergic response.
My deepest sympathies.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:13 AM on June 13, 2005

Extremely Hot Showers: I got poison ivy about twice a year until about age 27. the best relief i found, after hydrocortisone cream, was taking REALLY REALLY hot showers. hot water directly on the blisters is magical - it feels as if you are scratching the damn things, but you're not, and then afterwards the itching lessens greatly for a couple hours.
posted by chr1sb0y at 5:27 AM on June 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

I used to get poison ivy all the time...I found that ice packs (either "real" or the kind you can buy at the store) helped numb the itchy area. Of course, the relief is temporary.
posted by puffin at 5:50 AM on June 13, 2005

It needs to dry out. I had it once (or was it poison oak?) and seem to remember constantly applying rubbing alcohol. That sounds like it would sting like hell, but I guess it didn't.
posted by zardoz at 5:59 AM on June 13, 2005

Oatmeal bath. Put a cup of quick oats in a sock or a cut off bit of hosiery (to keep from having a bunch of oats all over your tub) and steep in a lukewarm bath with them. (Basically the same thing as Aveeno soak, only WAY cheaper.)

Also, if the itching is absolutely driving you nuts, smack the affected spots instead of scratching. It provides relief without bursting the blisters and spreading the disease.
posted by headspace at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2005

As always, the answer to your problem can be found in the lyrics to '50s pop songs.

"Gonna need an ocean / Of calamine lotion..."

I've always found that the worst thing about a case of poison ivy, even more unbearable than the itching, oozing rash, is getting "Poison Ivy" stuck in my head for weeks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2005

Benadryl- both topical cream and pills. And soak in Aveno.
posted by Doohickie at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2005

No, sconbie, Poison Ivy ("Leaflets three, let it be!") is not the same as Stinging Nettles. There's more "ouch" associated with the latter, whereas the former's result is a delayed-action itching, which gets worse before it gets better.

And in my experience, calamine lotion is a treatment which doesn't do anything useful.
posted by Rash at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2005

Zanfel, which is expensive, but works. There are jewelweed lotions & soaps out there, try calling your local health food store/herbalist & see if you can get some; it really helps. Hot showers, rubbing alcohol (stings like crazy) and you can try scrubbing it with scouring powder, which some people swear by but sounds dangerous. If it starts spreading wildly or pops up in strange places on your body, than you DO need to go to the doctor for steroids because it's gone systemic, and that is bad.

Prevention is key: when I think I may have been exposed I go home, put all my clothes in a plastic bag (keeps them from contaminating other clothes) & wash them in hot water & detergent before I wear them again. Then I shower with Tecnu which is really strong soap & mercifully cheap. That takes the urushiol off & thus I barely get any actual breakouts.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2005

I second the hot shower approach -- the feeling of the hot water on the rash feels extreme at first, but wonderful, and then it dulls. Once out of the shower the rash feels like it has run out of itch for a while. So to speak.
posted by o2b at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2005

I've had several severe cases, and it can be very painful. My condolences.

Piping hot water is a good tip. PI between the fingers/toes can be particularly bad as facing blisters rub against one another. A very hot bowl of water with a bunch of epsom salt helps--the heat numbs the itch/pain, and the salt pulls fluid from the blisters. (A very hot bath with epsom salt will also provide relief if you have the rash on your torso, bait-n-tackle, etc....)

Another trick I've had luck with is a combination of gauze, baking soda and (again) hot water. Hot water in a bowl, add plenty of baking soda, and soak the gauze, making sure to get as much of the baking soda into the nooks and crannies as possible. Then wrap the area with the rash, or lay strips of gauze over it. This approach will also remove fluid from the blisters.

I've had less luck with Oatmeal.

For prevention, I second the Tecnu line of products. The soap mygothlaundry links has worked for me, and they also make a lotion that you apply if you think you might come in contact with the stuff. (I don't see this on their page, though...perhaps discontinued.)

Maybe I'm wrong on this last point and someone can tell me that the oil then floats on top of the water, risking transmission of the rash to everyone else using the pool.

I've asked doctors about transmission, and it doesn't happen once you have a rash. You get PI from the oils, so you can transmit it if the oil is still on you. (Accidentally get some on your fingers, then go take a leak...transmission in a really bad way.) Once the rash breaks out, the oils are long gone.
posted by kortez at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2005

Technu is mineral spirits in a soap/ lotion base, (check the label) you can make your own. way cheap.
posted by hortense at 11:17 AM on June 13, 2005

That's good to know, hortense. Thanks.
posted by kortez at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2005

here is another thread
posted by hortense at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2005

I had it bad once (climbing around the mountains in san jose in shorts... ouch) The only thing that helped was oatmeal. Basically, you put some oatmeal in a blender to make oat flour, add water to make a paste and smear it on the affected area. It soaks up the oil that is causing the itch.
posted by muddylemon at 11:52 AM on June 13, 2005

Poison Ivy oils don't dry up quickly. Wash what you were wearing when you were exposed. Then, you might want to wash them again. Otherwise, you can get it again from your clothes.

My husband is desperately allergic to poison ivy. If he knows he's been exposed, then he showers as quickly as possible. (I've seen him finish the lawn and go running for the shower.) The clothes are immediately tossed into the wash. I've also seen him use gasoline instead of rubbing alcohol. The concept is to dry out the remaining oils as quickly as possible before he has a reaction.
posted by onhazier at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2005

I too would just like to confirm the hot water approach. I get the shower water absolutely as hot as I can stand to burn the itch away. Use soap and try not to spread the oils around.
posted by vaportrail at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2005

A washrag soaked in cold milk works pretty well. Benadryl will also help you out, but it works best if you take it early.

A couple of side notes: first, if you come into contact with poison ivy, you can largely prevent the rash by washing the exposed area well with soap and water within, say, ten minutes. Even if it's somewhat longer than that, you can prevent the amount of allergen that penetrates your skin.

Second, if you have a bad reaction to poison ivy, you might want to avoid mango skin (not the flesh of the fruit, just the skin). The skin is largely cross-reactive with poison ivy.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 1:46 PM on June 13, 2005

Late to the party, but...

When I get it on my legs, I take an extreme measure - scratch the shit till it oozes, then pour rubbing alcohol on it. Followed, of course, by writhing...but the rash is generally dried out and gone.
posted by notsnot at 3:17 PM on June 13, 2005

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