Protecting Your Family from Poison Ivy

poisonivy Protecting Your Family from Poison Ivy

Protect your family from poison ivy!

As you enjoy the great outdoors this season, be sure that you’re on the lookout for poison ivy – the harmless-looking plant that populates wooded areas. Merely brushing up against poison ivy can lead to a painful, contagious rash and for those who are extremely sensitive, even swelling and fever. Read on to learn more about poison ivy and how to protect your loved ones.

How Poison Ivy Works

Poison ivy leaves are covered with an oil called urushiol oil which is what causes irritation of the skin. The scariest thing about this oil is that it stays potent for a really long time. So if it get’s on your kids’ clothes and they just throw them in the hamper, you can potentially be infected by just touching the clothes when you go to wash them.

Poison Ivy Symptoms

Some people are more sensitive to urushiol oil than others.. and some people are completely immune. Symptoms can range from nonexistent to mildly uncomfortable to extreme.

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Skin peeling (typically as the rash is healing)

Even those who appear to be immune to poison ivy should avoid it. Immunity can change several times throughout a person’s life. Plus – they can still spread the oil to those who are sensitive to it!

Avoiding Poison Ivy

In order to avoid poison ivy, it’s crucial to know how to properly identify it. There are a few different varieties of poison ivy, all of which should be avoided. Some types are shrub-like and grow close to the ground, while there are more vine-like types that creep along the ground and up trees and other supports. offers some great pictures of what poison ivy looks like throughout the year and in different regions.

Wearing long clothes that cover the skin while you’re in wooded areas is another good way to lower your risk of exposure.

If You’re Exposed…

If you realize that you or someone else has brushed up against a poison ivy plant, fortunately you still have time to minimize the rash outbreak. Follow these steps as quickly as possible after contact:

  1. Remove clothing and place directly in the washer.
  2. Cleanse the area thoroughly with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These help dissolve the oil and remove it from the skin.
  3. Shower off in cold water – hot or warm water will open the pores and make the oil more easily absorbed.
  4. Wash your clothes in very hot water 2-3 times-use bleach if your clothes will allow it. Run an empty load with a splash of bleach through your empty washer afterward to clean it.

If the damage is done and you or someone you love does end up with a poison ivy rash, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can help with the itching. Another trick I learned at summer camp is an old gardeners secret that works.  Place white cider vinegar in a bowl with salt and stir to form a thick mixture.  Apply the vinegar/salt mixture to the infected area by blobbing it on with cotton balls.  Soak the cotton ball with vinegar and pile the salt on top with a spoon and apply.  This mixture dries the rash out quickly, continue to apply throughout the day.  MayoClinic suggests visiting a doctor if:

  • The reaction is severe or widespread
  • The rash affects your face or genitals
  • Blisters are oozing pus
  • You develop a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C)
  • The rash doesn’t get better within a few weeks

May Every Step You Take Be Healthy!

Best Regards,
Debbie Greenspan's signature
Debbie Estis Greenspan
Dr. Doormat, Inc.

12 thoughts on “Protecting Your Family from Poison Ivy

  1. Pamela Hallgan

    I am very allergic to poison ivy. At times, it seems all I have to do is look at it. It grows around the trees in my yard. I’ve been working on removing it with a ivy killer spray. So far, it seems to be working. I came down with a rash from poison ivy over the weekend. I have blisters on my arm and face. It itches like crazy. I’ve tried various ointments designed for an ivy rash, but nothing really works. Soaking in an oatmeal bath brings the most relief, along with the numbing affect of ice. The rash lasts for about two weeks, and the itching lasts even when the rash is gone. I really have no idea how I came in contact with poison ivy this time. I saw it over my aunt’s house when swimming in her backyard, but I didn’t go near it. Obviously, somehow I came in contact with the oil. Thanks for the extra information on this annoying condition. I wish I was among the immune.

  2. ANN*H

    Along our neighbors fence is poison ivy that keep wondering over to my side . I pull it best I can but as long as I cant get it all it keeps coming back and I dont want the grandkids to get in it. Thanks so much for the new idea with the vinegar and salt – I am going to try that for sure.

  3. Linda Meyers-Gabbard

    Ladyblueeyez1960 (at)(aol)(dot)(com)

    We live in the country so there is lots of poison ivy and poison oak. Growing up I had my share of breakouts. I remember the itch so bad my mom would put socks on our hands to prevent us from shredding our skin. Thanks for the post and the home remedies

  4. Pingback: Camping with KidsHealthy Home Mom @ Dr. Doormat | Healthy Home Mom @ Dr. Doormat

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