If you hike or go camping, there’s a good chance you’ve run into the infamous sting of poison oak or ivy. Kids and pets have a natural ability to run through patches of the stuff and bring it back into the house, where it can make contact with the rest of the family. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and your children on how to recognize the plants and avoid them. Pets are a different story.
Poison oak/ivy rash is not life or health threatening, but it very irritating. It should be treated and the rashes dressed and cleaned, or it might get out of hand and cause serious irritation to all areas of your body.
What Causes Poison Oak/Ivy Rash?
You can blame your poison ivy or poison oak rash on the oils in the plants. Like vegetable oil, they’re fixed oils, meaning that they don’t easily wash off or evaporate. For this reason, if a person or pet is exposed to either plant, you must first thoroughly wash the person’s skin or the pet’s fur. Then wash the person’s clothes as soon as possible, in case they were exposed to the oil as well.
Treatments for Poison Oak/Ivy
Once you get the rash, there is not much you can do to stop poison ivy/oak. You can, however, keep it from getting out of control and encourage the rash to dry up and leave quickly. Here are the main things you should do:
- Stop the spread of the rash by washing the site and taking Rhus tox orally as indicated, and put fullstrength Clorox bleach on the site of the rash. It will sting just a little, but the stinging will dissipate in a minute. Once the Clorox has dried, apply fels naphtha soap with water and let dry. This will stop the spread of the poison oak and dry the oil from spreading under the skin. Be careful, however, as many have allergic reactions to Clorox, causing dizziness and disorientation. You can also try white flower oil, the Chinese remedy made of specific essential oils, to help stop the rash.
- After you wash the skin or fur, apply any of a number of natural balms to relieve the itching and other symptoms. Lavender oil, for example, both dries the blisters and acts as an antiinflammatory. For a soothing paste, mix witch hazel with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) until the mixture is the consistency of cold cream. Apply the paste to the irritated area of skin. Like the lavender oil, this mixture will dry out the blisters and soothe the inflamed skin. For liquid relief, steep 2 tablespoons of dried chamomile in 2 cups of boiled water for 10 minutes. After it cools, dip a washcloth in the tea and rub it on the rash.
- Fight the antibodies: Combine vitamin C powder and water and put on the rash, as well as take C orally. Also, consume antioxidants from purple berries, lysine, and kelp with iodine.
A plant called Jewel Weed, which often grows close to poison oak, is useful for treating poison oak, poison ivy and stinging nettles. Just squeeze the juice from the leaves onto the affected area each day until it goes away. The leaves should be as fresh as possible, as the oils in the plant that help treat poison oak/ivy dissipate quickly.
You can build immunity to poison oak and ivy by taking Rhus tox (toxicodendron) 30x potency, three pellets under your tongue three times daily for seven days at the beginning of the year, before the plants come out. This is a homeopathic medicine, so be sure to read the bottle for directions on taking the remedy. Don’t touch the delicate medicine with your fingers. Simply pour the pellets into the lid of the bottle, toss the pellets under your tongue, and let them dissolve. Don’t take food or put anything else in your mouth 20 minutes before or after taking the remedy. Don’t breathe into the bottle. Don’t use any camphorlike materials, perfume, or peppermint; these may make the homeopathic medicine ineffective.
“Even if you've been fishing for three hours and haven't gotten anything except poison ivy and sunburn, you're still better off than the worm.”