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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Poison Ivy Treatment from the Cupboard

I really haven't done much besides clean since my last post. Since I was going to be gone Saturday and Sunday, I cleaned up the house quite a bit on Friday for a realty agent walk through that was yesterday. I also did even more polishing and cleaning last night and today since there was someone who wanted to see the house. It's amazing how much time the polishing takes up, even when everything is already clean!

So since I don't have much news, I thought I would give a summary on some home treatment I used for this round of poison ivy. I have been VERY happy with how quickly the welts and blisters have gone away and how well I was able to keep the itch under control. It will be good for me to record what I did this time anyway since I seem to get poison ivy every year. I'll list the different stages and what I used.

(Please note, these are some home remedies that worked for me from various things I gathered together from people who aren't in the medical profession. I am in no way qualified to give medical advice!)

Stage 1 - Contact
I missed recognizing this, but if you know you have come into contact with poison ivy, wash with degreasing dish soap and cold water ASAP. It only takes a few minutes to react. (See later in this post why not to use hot water.) Then wipe down with rubbing alcohol, along with wiping anything off that might have also come into contact with the plant and picked up its oils.

Stage 2 - Bumps and "Pimples" Forming
If you notice that you are starting to get a rash, wash the area frequently with cool to warm water using a degreasing dish soap. Also, rub the area lightly with salt, rubbing light enough not to break the skin. Also, frequently wipe the rash with vinegar. The sooner you can do these things, the quicker and less intense your breakout will probably be.

If itching has started, you can also make a mixture of any of the following to dry and leave on: dish soap, salt, baking soda, cooked and cooked oatmeal, vinegar. When you rinse it off, use cool to warm water. These things really helped take away my itch. DO NOT itch with your fingernails as poison ivy outbreaks are notorious for infections - which I have had with mine twice now. (One resulting in blood poisoning.) As awful as it sounds, a light salt rub (mixed with some soap) really feels good and will take the itch away for awhile.

You can also start taking oral Benadryl, although it can make you quite sleepy. Be careful with the Benadryl cream. It does a good job of taking the itch out, but some people will react to the cream when they have poison ivy and make things worse.

Stage 3 - Blisters (with oozing)
When you start getting blisters, you really need to keep the area clean to avoid infection. You can continue with the mixes of dish detergent, salt, baking soda, cooked and cooled oatmeal, and vinegar. Salt rubs mixed with soap also are good to keep up, (and feel great!) but take extra precaution not to break any blisters. If your skin seems really weepy, letting a paste of baking soda or cooked and cooled oatmeal dry on the area will help dry things up.

You may feel like although your skin is really weepy, it is quite dry too from all of the treatment. If this is the case, oatmeal works better than baking soda, and after you get done washing something off, an application of aloe will nourish your skin a bit. I found that sometimes my skin was just weeping because it was getting overly dry, and the aloe would stop the weeping for awhile.

Another thing that is good to use at this time is plain yogurt or buttermilk. These contain good bacteria that can help prevent infection - although if you suspect infection, it is important to see your doctor to get an antibiotic. Trust me!

Also, during this time, you can keep up the oral benadryl if you can stand the drowsiness.

Stage 4 - Healing
This is the stage where the blisters dry up and your skin is healing. You may still have itching at this time, but you are over the hump. Soap and salt rubs are still helpful, as well as aloe, buttermilk, and yogurt. Only use the baking soda and oatmeal if you really need to relieve some itching that the others won't, as your skin might be quite dry by now. Try to add as many moisturizing things as possible.

This whole process can take up to 3 weeks (or more). The least it has taken me to get to the healing stage was 1 week, which was this time. Something to note, however, is that the outbreak doesn't all go at the same rate or at the same stage. The concentration of oil you recieved and the thickness of your skin where you came into contact with the oil will make a difference on when the rash shows up and how quickly it clears up. It may seem as if the rash is spreading over a week or two, but the rash is not contagious and most likely the new spots are just areas that received less oil so they don't react as vigorously.

Also, oil will stay on shoes, door knobs, steering wheels, etc. for even up to a year. If you really think that your rash is spreading, you might want to wash or take rubbing alcohol to anything you think got oil on it.

Something to be cautious of too is heat. Heat will open your skin's pores and can possibly drive the rash deeper, making it worse or making areas that just received tiny bits of oil break out if they wouldn't have otherwise. The hard part is that heat feels really, Really, REALLY good on an itchy rash. Even while knowing this, I fell into the trap of using heat this time to relieve the itch. Instead, try a soapy salt rub. I came to realize this brought the same results as the heat for me.

So there you go. That's what I know about poison ivy remedies from your cupboard. If you have any that you fall back on, I would love to know.

As far as things not from the cupboard, (I guess Benadryl is one), I have heard that over the counter Zanfel is great (but expensive). Also, I have gone to the dr. to get steroids more than once, and they knock it down like none other. This has been my 2nd worse case of poison ivy, and it probably would have benefited from steroids, (my worst case involved lymph nodes swelling and red streaks racing up my arm - signs of impending blood poisoning leading to shots of powerful antibiotics and steroids) but I was so excited about how things from my cupboard were working that I decided to just finish off with them.

I hope you never have to use this information. :)

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Tools of My Trade

Since writing this post I have gotten poison ivy multiple more times.  I finally broke down and got the poison ivy treatment described below - oh my!  I can't say enough about it!  Now, if I can't get my hands on one of the following, I will use the above remedies, but I am going to always try to keep the below on hand because they are worth every penny!

I first used Zanfel, described underneath, until I learned that it was actually the same formulation and company as Mean Green Power Hand Scrub, which is much, much more economical by volume. I now keep a container of this hand scrub in my medicine cabinet.  It not only feels wonderful to use on a poison ivy infection with its gentle exfoliants, but somehow they have figured out how to come up with a product which helps remove any remaining or deeply absorbed poison ivy oils from the skin. My rashes that used to last 3 miserable weeks or more are now gone within a week - and the itching is immediately relieved throughout the day with applications just a couple of times each day until the rash is gone.  I have used this on my young children, and we have not had misery from poison ivy rashes since. It almost makes me not so fearful of getting into poison ivy anymore . . . almost! (Just Google Zanfel for instructions on how to use this product for poison ivy.)

Zanfel was the original tube of poison ivy treatment I purchased, at the suggestion of a friend.  It is the same formulation as Mean Green Power Hand Scrub, just marketed in a smaller tube at a higher price for poison ivy relief.  If you don't want to wait for an order of Mean Green Power Hand Scrub to  come in, I would highly suggest driving to Walmart or your local pharmacy to purchase a tube.  It will still be worth every penny. 

I have not personally used Rhus Tox, but a couple of my friends have introduced me to this product. Judging by the reactions I see them get, they are either more sensitive to poison ivy than I am, or they get into it more than I do. (One of them has it all over her yard.) They go on and on about this product whenever they have an outbreak. Not only does it help once they get one, but it has made their reactions much less severe as they start it in December and take maintenance doses throughout the season. (I'll have to get the schedule they use.) Now that I can spot poison ivy better, don't get into it much anymore, and have Zanfel on hand, I have not had the need to try this. If I were to get a major outbreak again, I think Rhus Tox (helping the body to heal) might be great to pair with Zanfel/Mean Grean Power Hand Scrub (removing difficult residual oils which continue irritation).


Anonymous said...

Hi Becca, great advice on the posion ivy:) I have been enjoying reading the journey you are on to your own land and farm. It sounds like things have been busy, but coming along good. The Lord never gives us more then we can handle. It's acutally a compliment in disguise if you think about it. I always think that when I am overwhelmed with things. I just figure the good Lord must know that I am going to be okay handling it. Heal up quickly and take care:)

The Kramer Family said...

Thanks for the tip. I will file this one away for future use since we've got plenty of poison ivy out here on our farm. Yikes! I hope you continue to heal beautifully!


The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Things are busy, but it is a bearable pace. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Kramer family-
I hope you don't have to pull it out of your file ever! I am hoping that once the livestock are grazing the pasture, the poison ivy will slowly disappear. Also, there isn't any shade for it now that the fence line is clear. Hopefully that will make a difference. I'm sure we have plenty in our woods still though. . .

vinod said...

You can get the posion ivy soap online or at some drug stores. I do know walgreens has thier own posion ivy soap and i like this one besides burts bee soap. In the event you have posion ivy do yourself a favor go buy some poison ivy soap right now and wash it as soon as you can.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post! I too love to experiment when I have the "opportunity".

I am currently the owner of a full face allergic reaction (ok, 2/3 of my face...feels like 3/3!) from poison ivy. I manage a farm, and have been working on mulching and some very minor clearing of leaves and things, but I can't remember seeing *any* poison ivy. I wonder if the culprit wasn't mixed in with the chipped wood I was spreading around my workshed...

Anyhow, I have been using a paste of baking soda, which dries it up wonderfully, and is quite soothing. I am also using a spray from my local herb shop called "Itchy Bitchy" (haha, they have a sense of humor there). It contains jewelweed, witch hazel, comfrey, and a few other things, and though the I smell like the inside of a licorice jar and my swollen, bumpy face has a yellow patina, by George it works! No itch.

I am at day three, and all my methods seem to have progressed the stages a bit, as most of the blisters have opened up (on their own) and the skin has thickened up, which I remember as being a later stage, from past experiences.

I have never had poison ivy on my face before, (although I am also highly allergic to mangoes, same Urushiol in those delicious little devils), and hope never to again.

Oh, did I mention I am supposed to be heading up to Boston for my boyfriend's sister's 30th birthday celebration party in an hour?

*sigh* I will be waiting in the doctor's parking lot at 8:55am to get a shot, me thinks.

Anonymous said...

100% agree about the Zanfel!!
Gale, Tallahassee, FL

Anonymous said...

Apply Noxzema cream ($4 at any dollar general) to any weeping rashes at night with a q-tip, bandage the area the best you can and remove them when the bandages become loose. Wash the cream off with cool soapy water (the cream may be dried and flaky and you may see where the cream drew the pus out of your skin). If you don't have access to soap when the bandages come off, wiping it thoroughly with a wet cloth, napkin, or paper towel works too. The Noxzema helps with itching, and doesn't dry your skin out (it's loaded with moisturizers). It's specifically designed to draw oils and toxins out of your skin and not dry you out.


Very good post- just a note:

Be careful about using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream with oral Benadryl, especially on kids. You can easily overdose this way. The drug enters your bloodstream being absorbed through the skin.

Better to use hydrocortisone cream and oral Benadryl.

Anonymous said...

The advice you give is interesting. Let me give you a piece of advice. You mention repeated and frequent poison ivy rashes. I strongly suggest you study what Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac look like as this may the biggest thing to aid in your itch relief.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Thank you Anonymous. :) I would also agree that is the best advise out there! Although I do know what they look like, sometimes I get so busy that I forget to look - although I've noticed that I must be becoming subconsciously aware of looking for it because I'll often have it just catch my eye when I'm not looking. And then there is the issue of the big dogs that run through the woods and come up to the house again, which I pet . . .

Anonymous said...

Dabbing with bleach twice a day and my rash cleared up in 3 days. Years ago I had the rash pretty much all over my body and cleared it up quickly by sitting in a bathtub of tepid water and bleach....

Elly van Laar said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I wished I had read your post, before I started removing poison ivy. I did that as careful as I could, AND I would have benefited from NOT using hot water (which my husband recommended, and did really relieve my itching, AND probably made it spread faster) and probably trying out your recipe of salt, soap, vinegar, and baking soda. I will do so after the fact with weeping blisters. Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Tecnu works well as a preventative rinse after exposure. It can also reduce reaction once you see the rash.

Cortney Cline said...

Coconut oil has helped with the itching and dryness. It is also an anti inflammatory which I am sure helps as well. I also used the tecnu and it has helped dry it out wonderfully. I have had a terrible case that I am currently battling. It is all Over my pregnant belly, back and arms. I caught it from a WASHED shirt that my husband had been wearing when he came in contact with it. I hear that it's worse for pregnant women bc of the suppressed immune response.

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