Every Hiker Should be Good at Identifying Poison Ivy and Hike With Poison Ivy Relief Options

Identifying the Poison Ivy PlantThe Poison Ivy plant is part of the Toxicondendron species of plants.  This species has three different plants that can cause an allergic reaction.  These plants are Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.  Poison Ivy, by far, is the most common culprit.  The first point of defense  to avoiding transmission is by identifying Poison Ivy on the hiking trail.

Identifying Poison Ivy –  The plant is a three or five leaf plant.  It can grow as a vine or plant in most of the country, but as a shrub in the far northwestern part of the United States and Canada.  The leaves are pointed and have serrated edges (like a steak knife).  The plant grows in almost every state except for Alaska and Hawaii.  It also doesn’t grow in some of the Southwestern deserts.  The plant turns yellow and then red in the fall.

The reason for the allergic reaction is because of Urushiol oil on the plant.  This resin is on the plant all year round, even if there are no leaves.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 85% of  people are will have an allergic reaction to the Urushiol oil.  The parts of your body that have thicker skin, like the bottoms of the feet and the palm are less likely to develop an itchy rash.

An allergic reaction can start as quickly as 10 to 15 minutes of exposure.  The skin will develop a rash within 12 to 48 hours and will continue for two to four weeks.  Different people have different severity of symptoms, from mild to intense blistering.   The oil quickly binds to the top layer of skin and starts the inflammatory process.

Applying rubbing alcohol immediately on the areas exposed to the resin is the most effective way to “stop” the process.  The alcohol will help dissolve the Urushiol.  Cold water can also help.  Washing the effected area with a lot of cold water can help to remove the oil from the skin.  Never wash in warm or hot water, because this will only open up the pores and allow more oil into the skin.  All items that have come in contact with the resin (clothes, equipment, shoes, etc.) need to be handled carefully and thoroughly washed.

Poison Ivy Relief – Once you are infected, what remedies help with the relief of symptoms?  For the most part, the itchy, red, rashes and blisters must take their course.  The object is to relieve the symptoms of the allergic reaction.

You can try these measures:

Zanfel Poison Ivy Lotion

  1. A cool compress on the effected site.
  2. Apply Calamine® lotion.  This can help dry up the blisters and ease the itching.  There are some skin lotions that can make the Poison Ivy irritation worse.  Make sure that any lotion applied does not contain; Zirconium, Benzocaine or a topical antihistamine (like Benedryl®, which is in Caladryl®).  These chemicals can irritate the rash and make it worse.
  3. Soak in a cold or luke warm bath with Oatmeal, baking soda or Aveeno® Oatmeal bath.  Again a hot bath can inflame the rash.
  4. Let the rash dry out by leaving it exposed to open air.
  5. Oral Benadryl® taken at night can help with the itching and also with sleep.  Remember, this is the oral (pill) medication, do not use the topical cream.  Also, other antihistamines are available in prescription form from your doctor.
  6. Try to avoid scratching and opening the blisters, this could lead to infection.
  7. There are other lotions that remove the Urushiol oil like Zanfel®.
  8. Above all else, if the problem persists, or if you have other health concerns, seek the advice of a physician.  The author and/or publisher is not a licensed health care professional.

Poison Ivy - Ivy Block Lotion

Above all the best prevention is avoidance.  This can be accomplished with the practice of identifying Poison Ivy.  Also, long sleeves, long pants and gloves should be worn when working near or with poison ivy plants.  There are also lotions that provide a “barrier” and may help, like Ivy Block®.  These are applied before the start of your hike.  I hope that this article has given good advice on Poison Ivy relief for you.

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