Learning of effective ways on how to get rid of poison ivy may be one of the most important survival skills to posses because it might be able to save you or your loved one if any of you became a victim of this plant’s allergy-causing poison. So in this guide we’ll feature some of the basics you have to understand about it and ways on how to solve the ‘itch’ or how to eliminate the plant from your garden.
Learn what poison ivy is and how it looks like
Before we go deeper into this guide, it is integral to learn a bit about this plant. Firstly, it causes allergic reactions to seven out of 10 people, and that ‘urishiol,’ the main chemical on it, is what results to rashes when the skin gets in contact with it.
According to experts, it just needs about one-billionth gram of the chemical to get a rash and it stays potent on surfaces, including of garden tools up to five years. This is why this urishiol has its reputation of being the most allergenic of all allergens around; in fact, it immediately causes rash and itchiness from the moment it touches skin.
Worry not though if you get in contact with poison ivy and develop rashes because you can treat it at home. But of course if the symptoms persist, especially if you suffer from difficulty in swallowing or breathing, develop rashes in most parts of your body and suffer from swollen shut eyelids and very itchy skin, go to the emergency room right away.
Next thing is determining how this plant looks like because it is your first defense to stay away from it and warn others not to get close to it if you were outdoors camping. It has three small leaflets, grows as a shrub like a low woody plant found in the Northern and Western Canada and United States as well as in the Great Lakes but as a vine in many portions of the Southern, Midwest and Eastern United States, bear green berries, which turn off-white in early fall and develops yellow-green flowers.
Remember this short description so that you will be able to recognize the plant should you encounter it and that you will be able to advise other campers should you be camping outdoors.
Home remedies for getting rid of poison ivy
One of the ways to get rid of poison ivy is to wash the affected area with soap and water right away within five to 15 minutes after your skin’s exposure to the plant because prolonging it may not help but worsen the situation.
However, not recognizing an allergic reaction from the plant happens among people who are unaware about how the plant looks like and accidentally get into contact with it.
Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol which can be a solvent mixed with water and applied on skin, but should then be washed off using a piece of wet washcloth after three minutes.
Speaking of rubbing alcohol, it also works to prevent the poison from spreading in your body. This is the very same reason you are advised to bring rubbing alcohol when going to places known to be thrived by this poisonous plant. After contact with it, you can minimize the discomfort and prevent the urishiol from spreading in your body by applying rubbing alcohol directly on affected skin.
Now if you have access with calamine lotion, then this could also work because it can dry up the blisters, provide a cooling, soothing feeling and relieve the itch eventually and definitely it is one of the best ways on how to treat poison ivy.
If you don’t have access to any of these, you can also make use of over-the-counter treatments, such as hydrocortisone creams to apply on affected skin area.
Alternatively, you can get vinegar and make a compress to dry up the rash and get relief from the itching sensation. What to do is to get half a cup of white vinegar, pour it into a small container and add water. Put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes until it becomes cold. Then, get a piece of cloth and dampen it with the vinegar solution. Apply it on the affected skin area.
Shake the itch using milk, another remedy to do when at home, but this is particular to a cold milk compress, especially if the poison plant’s urishiol gets into your face because vinegar may not be advisable to for application to it.
Get a clean rag and soak the same in white milk (for its fat content) and apply it on affected skin for about 15 minutes. (The cold temperature of the rag stops the itch right away and the fat lubricates the skin). After a couple of minutes, rinse it off with warm water.
Outdoor solutions to treat poison ivy
When you’re out for school camping and you get in contact with poison ivy, there are also measures to get rid of the ‘urishiol.’ You can mix Domeboro, an over-the-counter astringent you can buy in powder or tablet form, and water to make a solution that you can apply to the affected skin area using a clean washcloth or gauze pads.
Additionally, you can make use of jewelweed, a plant with a watery stem containing juice that can stop the itch. It can be applied to the affected skin area to get relief from the itch and to soothe the rashes. All that you have to do is to crush the stem and rub its juice directly on the rash.
If you happened to be at home, one of the home remedies to do is to collect some jewel weed, take its stems, add water and blend them altogether. When done pour it into ice cube trays and put in freezer, making some jewelweed ice cubes. Get some and rub against the itch.
Now if you were beach camping and you get in contact with poison ivy, take a sea bath to wash away the sores because the salty water will dry out the blisters fast. But if you aren’t anywhere near it by the time of contact, you can also make a salt solution (using Epsom salts). They are commonly used for treating dermatitis and poison ivy rashes. Just read and understand the label, sprinkle some of the salt into lukewarm water and apply on affected skin or take a bath with it. See our article on the many uses of Epsom salt for added information.
Use vegetables or fruits to relieve the itch
Not another session in your favorite spa, but cucumber is one of the simplest solutions for treating poison ivy. What you got to do is put some slices of it on the affected skin area, or mash some to make a paste before applying on skin for relief. If you don’t have cucumber but you have bananas or watermelon, then this may also work. You can either get some banana peels or watermelon rinds to relieve the itch and sooth the rashes.
Apply apple cider vinegar on affected skin area
Acting as a great antiseptic, along with a myriad of uses and healing properties, apple cider vinegar could be one of the best home remedies for getting rid of poison ivy. Aside from it being used for drying up acne or pimples fast, it is also known for treating rashes and allergies caused by plants, including poison ivy.
All you need to do is to soak a paper bag into apple cider vinegar and apply it over the rash to draw out the toxins causing blisters and itch.
Get some baking soda
Just like other kitchen remedies against poison ivy, baking soda is a potent ingredient to find at home and treat the rashes. You can make baking soda paste to smear on affected skin area so that it can absorb the toxins. To soothe poison ivy itch using it, mix three tablespoons with one teaspoon of water. Use this paste to apply on affected areas. When it dries, the paste will flake off, letting you experience temporary relief. Alternatively, you can take a bath with one cup of baking soda added to water.
Not only that you can apply baking soda in relieving the itch, but you can also use it to treat any oozing blisters by mixing two teaspoons with one quart of water. Get some sterile gauze pads, saturate them with the solution and use them to cover the blisters for about 10 minutes, repeating up to four times a day. * Don’t apply it in or anywhere near your eyes to avoid irritation.
Get an oatmeal bath
If you think that the good old oat is only for supplying your body with fiber, think again. This is another potent solution against poison ivy rashes and itch. What you got to do it is to get a cup of it, grind it in the blender and pour it on a piece of cloth. Knot it and then tie it around your bathtub’s faucet, suspending it under running water. Fill your tub with lukewarm water and soak yourself onto it for about half an hour. For added relief, get the oatmeal bag and apply it directly on the rashes.
Use Aloe Vera for its cooling effect
Suffering from poison ivy rash, you might be feeling as if you have sunburn. To solve it, get Aloe Vera, extract its gel, and apply it directly on your skin. Today, you can also buy some commercially-made Aloe Vera gel from pharmacies that you can also apply on the burning itch.
Apply lemon juice to get rid of the toxic oil
Aside from being used as a natural astringent and pimple remedy, lemon juice also works great against poison ivy’s toxic oil because it can cut through the toxic substances. To do it, apply lemon juice right away before the poisonous chemicals penetrate your skin.
Water also does the trick
Well, water is the universal solvent and we all know that, but actually it has other important uses, such as treating poison ivy. Wash the affected body parts under running water that can immediately prevent the development of the rash. Don’t use hot water though, as it just opens the pores, letting the toxic substances enter the skin faster. Take a bath, either with or without salt, in order to draw any excess moisture to the skin’s surface.
Speaking of water, you can also make use of cold compress to reduce the rash, prevent scratching and taming the rash. Avoid scratching no matter how itchy your skin gets because this results to opening blisters that may worsen the infection.
Poison ivy control in your garden
Alright now that you know how to get rid of the rashes you get from poison ivy’s ‘urishiol,’ you may also want to learn how to get rid of the plant itself in your garden. It may be the bane plant for any home gardener because it causes serious problems if won’t kill it now. If the poisonous plant makes your garden its home, you may be looking for the best solution on how to kill it, something easier said than done. But anyway, here’s what you got to do.
The first thing to think about or decide on is whether you are using an organic or a chemical control method, although both are effective, a chemical control may provide faster results than organic means.
Let’s start with organic control
One of the hardest things to do is to kill the plant in its entirety, meaning the whole plant including its roots. And if you were choosing organic control, it means you should pull the plant out yourself. But when is the best time to do it? It is advised you do it after the rain, when the soil is soft and its roots are easier to pull out than pulling the plant out during a sunny day when the ground is dry. Unless you are wearing thick gloves and long sleeves though, don’t do it.
Do not get into contact with anything that touched the poisonous plant, which contains oil which can transfer easily from object to object, including gloves to skin. And for this very same reason, gardeners usually opt for the chemical control method. They are trying to eliminate any chances of touching the plant and developing rashes after. What happens is that they accidentally touch their face while they are pulling out the plant off the ground.
But even with an effective weeding, some of the roots remain and eventually grow back, making you pull the plants out again, although doing this over again saps the plant’s strength that it does not regrow.
Another organic control method is boiling water, although you only should do it if there are no surrounding plants you wish to keep. You can pour hot water directly over the poison ivy to kill it, but be careful performing this method as boiling water also kills any plants it gets in contact with.
Use weed killing spray for fast results
If you’re growing impatient because organic methods of killing poison ivies do not work, you may now turn to chemical weed sprays that contain ‘triclopyr’ that can get through the plant’s waxy surface and ‘glyphosate’ that can kill the roots. After application, poison ivies die after one to two weeks (curl/wilt, first 24 hours; become yellowish-brown, next four days; and completely die, within one-two weeks).
These herbicides are effective in getting rid of the poison ivies. But for best results, apply/spray them onto the leaves, and as soon as you see it growing back (*maybe a root or two survived), spray the plant again. Doing it several times will lessen the plant’s ability of re-growing and will kill it completely.
*Caution: Whatever chemicals you use to kill this plant, read and understand the maker’s directions closely. And common sense, keep poisons out of children’s reach.
Take extra care when disposing poison ivies
Make sure that you are wearing thick gloves to prevent hand contact, long sleeves to cover your skin and eyewear to protect your eyes. Put all the poison ivies in a garbage bag, but double it should you have an extra. See to it that no part of the plant is exposed and put the bags with other yard wastes. *For protection and prevention of poison spread, dispose clothing worn, although you may also keep them but make sure to wash them with warm soapy water and bleach. See our list of the top clothes you can wear for protection.
Definitely, there are certain things you can do when your skin gets in contact with poison ivy’s dreaded urishiol or if you want to get rid of the plant in your garden. Many of these remedies are natural using kitchen ingredients, including baking soda, lemon and vinegar, with over-the-counter solutions, including calamine lotion and rubbing alcohol and fruits and vegetables, including cucumber, banana and watermelon. And if you want to get rid of the plant in your garden, there are two options for you—organic and chemical methods.
Feel free reading or bookmarking this guide or sharing it with friends to spread the word on how to eliminate poison ivy off your skin or from your garden today!
Before you leave for any backpacking trips, read our piece on wilderness first aid kits and how to tackle any emergencies.