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Article: Poison Ivy: Identification, Treatment, and Removal: My Horrible Posion Ivy Experience

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Forum: Article: Poison Ivy: Identification, Treatment, and RemovalReplies: 5, Views: 46
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Saint Paul, MN
(Zone 4b)

September 25, 2012
7:10 AM

Post #9285834

I had gotten a severe allergic reaction just this spring for the first time. I thought it was a bug bite, and I did not wash my legs very well after a hike. The doctor gave me an immune-suppressant drug, which only helped slightly. The side effect was that I was then immune compromised in addition to the severe dermatitis on both legs, torso, arms, and back. So I eventually developed strep throat due to being immune compromised.

The physician said I didn't need to put anything on the rash. And I believe he thought that the blisters ought not to be broken. After about a few days of sheer misery, I bought some over the counter drying lotion, and this helped absorbed a lot of the pus from the broken blisters. I also found out that if you break the blisters, and initiate scabbing, you will resolve the dermatitis sooner. I also confirmed this method with my co-worker, who has repetitively been infected on her hands from her dog. She will also immediately break the blister to initiate scabbing/healing.

Last week, the fall temperatures dipped to jacket weather. I put on a sweater that I had left in a work locker that had not been worn or washed since this spring. Unfortunately, the last time I had worn it was when I had the dermatitis. Since then, I have disposed of the sweater, and is currently recovering slowly and diligently from this secondary outbreak. I have also laundered my linens and clothing in warm to hot water to expel the sap (heat helps to separate the oil from the cloth) and the soap will then neutralize the chemical oil.

Although drying agents like Calamine Lotion is helpful, the best treatment for me was hydro-cortisone cream. This greatly stopped the intense itching (sometimes two applications is necessary) and swelling. I am then left with managing the blisters. It is my belief that the blistering is the body's method to expel the toxin from the skin. So I apply a drying agent and/or gauze/bandages to the blistering skin which aid in containing the outbreak. Paper tape (with gauze if necessary) like 3M Micro-pore is more helpful than regular bandage, since it sticks to wet skin, and does not leave a residual glue that can cause additional itchiness if not removed with glue remover.

Quick identification of the reaction, and patiently trying different treatments is my advice since our bodies will react slightly differently to the toxin and subsequent measures for relief. I compare it to my pre-teen chicken pox experience as they both are skin reactions with severe blistering and itching. I question if my first generation status contributes to the severity of my experience since my ancestors were not fortune to come in contact with the toxin and thus develop some immunity or lessen sensitivity to its effects.

So I will be adding the necessary drying agent/creams/gauze etc to the First Aid kit when packing for my next camping trip.

Note - Another common name for Jewelweed is 'Touch Me Not.' I have been told is can be an irritant as the name implies, but cannot recall my sources. Although some claim it is effective for poison ivy, its efficacy had not been shown to be scientifically significant. Some folks even consume its seed as a snack. Here is a Wikipedia section about Jewelweed:

"Jewelweed contains 2-methoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone, an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that is an active ingredient in some formulations of Preparation H.[4]

The North American jewelweeds are often used as an herbal remedy for treat bee stings, insect bites, and Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) rashes. It is particularly used after Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) contact to prevent a rash from developing, despite multiple controlled studies showing it to have no antipruritic effect after the rash has developed.[5][6][7][8]

The Orange and the Yellow Jewelweed (I. pallida) have been subject to various scientific studies as regards their alleged effect against Poison Ivy contact dermatitis. Save for one study conducted in the 1950s,[9] no significant and lasting antipruritic effect was found compared to other commonly used treatments.[10]

Unspecified Impatiens is one of the traditional 83 Bach flower remedies, alleviating impatience, and is contained in the "Rescue Remedy" or "Five Flower Remedy" touted as an anxiolytic.[citation needed].

All Impatiens taste bitter and seem to be slightly toxic upon ingestion, causing intestinal ailments like vomiting and diarrhea. The toxic compounds have not been identified but are probably the same as those responsible for the bitter taste; they might be glycosides or alkaloids."


This message was edited Sep 25, 2012 8:16 AM


Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 25, 2012
3:45 PM

Post #9286288

Thanks for sharing your experience! I am thankful that I DON'T have first-hand experience with those miserable, blistering rashes. I got on this research topic when a friend asked me about the ranges of poison ivy, oak, and sumac, and if there was any way to tell which one was causing her rash. She was just miserable! I'll be writing articles about poison oak and poison sumac in the near future, as well.

Falls Church, VA

October 1, 2012
3:54 AM

Post #9291750

Thank you for the very informative article. I was successful in killing the poison ivy in my yard with Brush-be-gone, I cut the climbing stems close to the ground, and sprayed on the cuts, hoping not much of the herbicide hit the soil. Also clean your pruners with rubbing alcohol afterwards. Wait a few days, wearing disposable plastic gloves, take the dried poison ivy away from the trunk of the tree and put them and the gloves in a plastic bag to dispose them.

For myself, I have learned to use Fels Naptha soap every time I come home from walks. I just use the soap on myself when taking a shower and also wash my hair with it. Fels Naptha soap also helps if you feel itchy after gardening or weeding. I can get it in Safeway and Giant food, near laundry detergents. And make a habit of also laundering the clothes that you wear after the walks immediately.

My reactions to poison ivy was not too bad, but bad enough not to want it to happen again.
Dayton, TX

October 1, 2012
10:18 AM

Post #9292231

Many years ago when we bought our property, there were cut up tree trunks lying around, left by someone who had thought to buy the property but had changed his mind. Because it was early spring before everything started to sprout, as we picked up the pieces, I paid no attention to the vines on the pieces. Bad mistake! A few days later it was apparent that I had a bad reaction to our friend poison ivy. I went to a dermatologist who had never treated me before (we were new in the area). He gave me a cream of some kind to use. A few days later I was back to see him, this time with a terrible reaction. My eyes were yellow and I felt horrible. That is when he and I realized I was really allergic to the stuff. I became acquainted with steroids. Believe me, I now know what poison ivy looks like in all its manifestations, especially the hairy stems that climb up walls and trees. This is very important in cold weather when the "leaves are three, let it be" doesn't' help.
I do remember having a head to toe reaction to poison ivy when I was around 7 years old. Calamine lotion did the trick that time but I suppose that sensitized me.
Here is a cute picture of a baby Barred Owl and look where he is.
Beverly A.

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Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

October 1, 2012
7:06 PM

Post #9292992

Adorable owl, but I think he's pretty safe from human interference in that particular location! I just cringe at the horrible rashes some of my students and friends have shown me from contact with poison ivy, and I've heard many stories about steroids and even hospital stays.

Francine, my husband swears by Fels Naptha, too.

Stanchfield, MN

October 1, 2012
8:39 PM

Post #9293112

I feel for you. When I found out just how sensitive I am to urushiol, I had it on almost my whole body (yes, I spread it with my hands, not knowing that I even had on my hands...). My eyes swelled shut (they kind of "took turns" with it, thankfully) and my face was so swollen I couldn't wear my glasses. The only parts of my body not affected in any way were my feet, scalp, back and "backside"...
I agree about opening the blisters; doing so does seem to help start the healing sooner, it certainly helps alleviate part of the misery.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is called "touch-me-not" because of the ripe seed capsules, which burst open and EXPLOSIVELY spray the seeds when touched -- not because of any irritant quality in the sap.

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