Poison Ivy? Act Fast!
For those who are sensitive to poison ivy, oak and sumac, an ounce of prevention is worth way more than a pound of cure. But accidental exposure can happen for your patients.
An oil called urushiol is responsible for the itchy blistering rash that these plants can cause. Many people may not know that WATER alone deactivates the urushiol so rinsing off the oil as soon as possible after contact (within 5 minutes) can help prevent or reduce a reaction. Use water from a garden hose, lake, stream or even a drinking water bottle to rinse the skin as quickly as possible.
Here is a basic protocol for your patients to follow if exposed to these plants: remove clothing, rinse it with water and leave it to soak. Rinse your skin thoroughly in the shower with COOL or barely lukewarm water (avoid hot water which can open the pores). You can then gently wash with liquid soap and rinse again. While still in the shower, gently apply organic apple cider vinegar to your skin (don’t rub) and rinse. The acetic acid in the vinegar helps remove residual oil or residues, and then balances the pH of your skin. If more than 5 minutes passed between contact with the plants and showering, you can follow up with a bentonite clay body mask which may help in drawing out the urushiol that may have absorbed into the skin and pores. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse or shower it off with cool water. Pat the skin dry (don’t rub) or dry in front of a fan.
Additionally, you can take homeopathic Rhus Toxicodendron 30C and dose several times daily during the first week and as needed. Finally, thoroughly wash clothing and anything else that may have come in contact with the plants, including shoes/boots, gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and pet’s fur. Vinegar and water should do the trick.
If a rash does arise, these things can be very helpful to soothe and heal it faster:
- A hot bath or shower can produce up to 8 hours of relief from itching initially because heat accelerates the release of histamine in the skin that causes the itching. A hot shower will cause intense itching initially as the histamine is being released. Gradually increase shower temperature to maximum tolerability and continue until the itching subsides. This process will deplete the cells of histamine and reduce the itching for many hours.
- Short, lukewarm or cool baths using a colloidal oatmeal preparation, and 1 cup of baking soda. Colloidal oatmeal helps dry the rash and reduce oozing. Calamine lotion or bentonite clay both help to dry the rash and reduce itching. The active ingredients in calamine lotion are a combination of calamine powder (which is actually zinc oxide powder with a little (5%) ferric oxide mixed in), bentonite clay and a liquid like witch hazel. It was designed to be anti-infective, astringent (drawing and drying) and anti-pruritic and can be very effective. Calamine lotion and bentonite clay both leave a powdery residue on the skin that absorbs the oozing. For calamine lotion that is totally natural, consider making your own!
- You can apply cold compresses, calendula or Aloe vera to itchy skin. Keep Aloe vera gel in the refrigerator for soothing application as needed. The cooling effect of refrigerated calendula spray or Aloe vera gel helps reduce the itching and foster healing.
- Colloidal silver spray can be applied to open skin to prevent infection.
- Consider supplementation with botanicals and nutrients that support skin healing and a healthy inflammatory response: vitamins A and C, turmeric, quercetin, nettles and bromelain are all appropriate.
Natural Poison Ivy Rescue Kit
- Homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron 30C
- Bentonite clay mask
- Colloidal oatmeal powder
- Colloidal silver spray
- Aloe vera gel (min 99% pure)
- Calamine lotion
- Calendula spray
When it comes to poisonous plants the key is to ACT FAST! to avoid or reduce a reaction.
http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/hc/poison-ivy-and-poison-oak-3168656/ Accessed: 5/4/2016
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/itchy-skin/poison-ivy-oak-and-sumac Accessed 5/4/2016
http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/poison-ivy-home-remedies Accessed 5/4/2016
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02875/poison-ivy.html#_ga=1.8699189.1852449888.1460993456 Accessed 5/4/2016
By Lisa Murray, RND, LD