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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

How to Treat Poison Ivy

Beat the itchy stuff with creams or homeopathic measures.

by: The Backpacker Editors


I'm one of the 15 percent of Americans who are exquisitely sensitive to poison ivy. So sensitive, in fact, that I often dream of those "leaves of three" and wake up itching and scratching. When I'm actually stricken with poison ivy, the itching is so intolerable that I'm in no mood to talk, hike, or carry a pack. Fortunately, years of anti-itch experimentation and my training as a physician have helped me find the most effective treatments. Here's what I keep in my first-aid kit to battle the itchiest rash known to medical science.

Barrier creams. Try IvyBlock, Stokogard Outdoor Cream, Hollister Moisture Barrier, or Hydropel Moisture Barrier. These creams work by binding to the oil in poison ivy, oak, and sumac as you're hiking. When you wash off the cream, the irritating oil goes with it. If you're a sweaty hiker, reapply the cream every 3 to 4 hours.

Drying preparations. Calamine and Burow's solution dry the irritated skin so that a crust forms, and dried blisters itch less than moist ones. Reapply these remedies several times a day if you're sweating.

Anti-inflammatory steroids. These prescription drugs are the big guns in the war against poison ivy rashes. Prednisone can be soothing and may heal the rash if taken in high doses (120 mg a day for 2 days) within a few hours of when the rash starts. Although prednisone won't cure the rash if you wait a day or 2 before you start taking it, it will ease inflammation and itching, especially if the rash affects your face or genitals. Topical fluorinated steroid gels applied before blisters appear can also be helpful for individuals with mild to moderate poison ivy sensitivity. Discuss with your doctor which steroid is right for you. Pregnant women and children should not take steroids.


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Bill
Sep 26, 2012

To stop the itch for a while, use a hair dry on the area.

Anonymus
Jul 09, 2012

Yikes Bill. It's amazing how rude we can be to others in online forums. Like homeopathy or not, Pat's definition of homeopathy is correct, look it up. It's a practiced kind of "medicine" with a set definition that is not that same as a home remedy. But even if he was completely wrong, you don't have to berate him like that.

From Creighton University Medical Center
http://altmed.creighton.edu/Homeopathy/philosophical.htm
click on Dilutuion

amy adams
May 29, 2012

try bleach water

Shelby
May 29, 2012

my p i is really bad need help it started on the side of my stomach and stretched every were except for my face and the bottom of my leg i tried bleach water and calamine lotion any other things besides the things u said

Shelby
May 29, 2012

agreed who said u knew

Old Scouting Bear
May 14, 2012

When the Red Cross sent us out to provide free first aid services, they put Calamine Lotion in the med-kits.
I asked them "Why only that?"
Their answer was that "Some people are allergic" to some of the stronger preparations. If you are treating others, please keep that in mind.
For me, the FIRST thing I do If I think I have been exposed is to thoroughly wash that area as soon as possible with a STRONG laundry soap (like those old brown lye-soap bars such as "Octagon.") --- I don't even know if you can get that brand anymore.)
The preparations I find to be helpful, and a bit stronger than "Caladryl" are, "Zeradryl", and "Ivy Dry." They are all drying agents.
You might want to consider "Benadryl," but check with your doctor first, as this is an antihistamine that you will be swallowing.
Something else to keep in mind if you don't want to get poison ivy in the first place:
1. Goats eat it with impunity. Don't go petting any goats where that stuff grows. ;)
2. For that matter, the oils from the plant can easily rub off onto the coat of your favorite pet.
3. Lastly, NEVER, NEVER use any dry vines as kindling to start your fires, and NEVER clear an area of poison ivy by trying to burn it! The oils in the plant that cause the rash ARE NOT destroyed by burning. The smoke from this plant can get in your eyes, in your mouth and nasal passages, and down into your lungs. If it gets into your airway, it could swell and close off! Even without that extreme reaction, it's probably "to the hospital" for you.

Anonymous
Apr 11, 2012

Bill
Apr 06, 2012

Pat, I don't know what source you got you definition or opinion of homeopathy from, but you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Your useless comment shows a lack of understanding of natural and modern medicine alike. Just go get a steroid shot and let everyone use the method that works best for them.

Mariann
Apr 05, 2012

Ya know something?? I don't care whether it's homeopathic or not, if this helps our family, who are in the throes of this evil nemesis, I applaud the writer!!!! :o)

Ken
Mar 12, 2012

My Grandmother use to dab bleach on poison ivy when we had it as kids... burned like heck and smelled too.. but in 3 days it was dried up....

I`m 60 and still use it... but now I`m so sensitive to where P.ivy is that when I think I brushed it and get that tell tale tingling itch --- the first thing I do is put cold water on it immediately to wash off the oil.... than soap and cold water... you never want to use warm cause that opens the pores on the skin and lets the oil in... If I should later break out with a rash --- I get out the good old Bleach/Chlorax... and dab it on... 3 days and it`s dried up....

but do the cold water first as soon as you touch it to eliminate the need for the bleach...

Poison Ivy --- Hate that stuff... .it`s like an alien life form out there trying to get us... LOL..

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