How soon after exposure to poison ivy do I need to wash my skin? If I apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with poison ivy, will it reduce my reaction, or stop it altogether?
Submitted by - Pete, Minneapolis, MN
The oily resin, urushiol, in poison ivy, oak and sumac can be washed off, preventing a reaction, if you wash soon enough. The recommended agents are a soft soap and cold water (because that combo removes oil better). How soon you need to wash depends on your skin's susceptibility. It varies—but the sooner, certainly the better. As far as I know, hand sanitizers have never been tested for their ability to remove urushiol. I don't think a hand sanitizer would work used as directed: splash it on and rub it in. But if you used a lot of it and rinsed it off soon after splashing it on, it might remove enough oil to prevent a reaction. But I'm only guessing.