Updated: Jun 20, 2018
Know what to look for, how to kill it and naturally treat your skin, when you do get it!
Poison Ivy seems to be just one more summer nuisance, besides fleas, ticks, flies and mosquitoes that can surprise even the most diligent of yard gardeners. That's because it's usually a seasonal issue; often forgotten completely until the day you suddenly start to scratch, thinking a biting critter just nailed you. But then bubbles appear on your fingers, or legs and it spreads each day till it dawns on you that you've got a bad case of poison ivy.
Usually by the time you notice it for what it is, you've done enough damage to your skin from all that scratching, to consider going to the doctor.
Poison Ivy can fool anyone because it can integrate and invade ground myrtle and other ivy type plants that you want to keep in your yard. It can creep up trees and climb over fences. It looks harmless enough visually, thus it's not always easy to spot.
What To Look For
Poison Ivy can best be spotted for it's three leaf signature. Start by looking at the stem, and you'll notice a larger leaf situated at the end, with two smaller leaves that shoot off to the sides. The leaves can be either notched or smooth on the edges, and they will have pointed tips. In the spring, the plant's leaves will appear reddish, turning green in the summer, and then yellow to orange in the fall.
How To Avoid It
The best way to avoid it is to do a full yard inspection in the spring, carefully examining your bushes, trees, fencing and ground cover. Wear plastic gloves and keep completely covered if you feel the need to step into ground myrtle to get a better look at a tree. Make a note of where you've found it, so that you can return with a solution that will kill it, while it is just sprouting. Waiting til mid summer only makes the job of controlling it that much harder.
Natural Ways to Kill It
One of the cheapest, most natural ways to kill it is to mix three pounds of salt, with a gallon of water, and a quarter-cup of dish soap. Fill a spray bottle and apply it directly to the poison ivy leaves. Do this on a clear day, so that the salt has a chance to work on the leaves before the rain washes it away. Check back occasionally and re-apply as needed. It will probably take several attempts to nail it completely. Using this natural solution will help to protect pets and other small animals from poisons associated with chemical solutions.
Natural Ways to Heal Your Skin
It is the oil of the plant (urushiol) that comes in contact with the skin that is what agitates it. While a poison ivy rash will clear up on its own, the itching associated with the rash can be unbearable. It is believed that showering within 60 minutes of exposure may help limit the spread and severity of the rash. In fact, anything that the oil has gotten on must be washed, including clothing, garden tools, or lawn furniture because you can keep getting it by retouching anywhere the oil resides. Oftentimes, people will swear that it is spreading, but the appearance of new blisters and hives just means that you are somehow retouching items that the oil remains on. If there is remaining oil on your skin, you must wash it off. Washing items that came in contact with the oil can include bed sheets, pillows, t-shirts, wash towels and socks, etc. So it is most important to retrace your steps to see what you touched before you realized that you had it. Luckily, there are many ways to help expedite healing that you most likely have around the house.
Baking Soda Baths & Pastes - To relieve itching, place 1/2 a cup of baking soda in a bath tub filled with cool to warm water (not hot, as hot water will open your pores). You can also mix 3 teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of water and mix until it into a paste. Apply the paste to the infected area.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar - Apply a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar directly to the infected skin. The vinegar has a toxin-pulling action that helps suck the poison out of the pores.
Aloe Vera Gel - Aloe Vera can be used directly on the infected area and you can buy a plant and use the gel from inner flesh of the leaves.
Himalayan Crystal Salt - Salt is an excellent natural remedy, to help dry the skin, which will pull both the excess water from blisters and the poison from the body. Make a paste using purified water and Himalayan Salt.
Lavender Oil - Wet a small towel in cold water, apply a few dabs of lavender oil and gently press it against the inflamed skin for 15 minutes at a time.
Organic Witch Hazel - Dabbing a small amount of witch hazel tonic on the infected area offers both cleansing and itch-relief. Witch hazel can be found at most drugstores.
Banana Peel - Rub the inside of a banana peel on the affected area. This is possibly related to the cooling effect the banana peel has on the rash.
Cucumber - This green veggie just feels very cooling. Slice a piece of a cucumber and let it dry on the affected area.
Cold Lemon - A refrigerated lemon will not only feel good to the touch, it will help remove any residual oils. Slice a piece and lightly press onto the affected area.
Ice - A god old fashioned cube of ice rubbed right over a blister can instantly take the sting out, as the temperature difference will immediately register on the skin.
Though everyone's reaction to the oil will be different, on average, it takes between two to three weeks to completely clear up. This is because sometimes, people don't realize that they keep reinfecting themselves due to residual oils in clothing or bedding that may not have been properly washed. Remnants of Urushiol oil can last for up to five years, so it is imperative to wash everything you have come in contact with. This will help expedite healing as well.