Poison ivy is a tri-leaf plant that has become infamous around the world for its ability to impart a very itchy rash to anyone coming in contact with its leaves. When exposed skin brushes against the plant, an oil called urushiol can be spread to the skin, and if not washed off within 10 or 15 minutes, it will begin to penetrate the skin and trigger an allergic reaction.
This reaction is characterized by a reddish rash with blisters that are filled with a clear fluid. Contrary to popular belief, this rash and these blisters are not contagious, and they do not ‘spread’ to other parts of the body. The reason that rashes and blisters appear later on some parts of the body than others, is that areas where skin is thinnest will be penetrated first, and will cause the initial reactions. Areas where skin is thicker may develop rashes and blisters several days after the first ones, giving the appearance that the rashes have spread.
The fluid which appears in blisters is fluid from the body itself, and it is not liquid poison ivy which can be spread to anyone else through touching. This is the body’s natural reaction to the toxic irritant from the plant, and it is not the cause of any spreading of the rash. The itching and discomfort associated with blisters and rashes can be medically alleviated with a hydrocortisone salve or ointment, and this process generally takes about seven to ten days.
However, there are several home remedies which have met with at least modest success throughout the years, bleach on poison ivy being one of them. Because it is caustic, the bleach approach should only be used on skin which is unbroken, and it should not be used after blisters have developed, and fluid has begun to ooze out of them. For the bleach application to be most effective, it should be addressed as soon as you feel that tell-tale tingling on your skin which indicates that you’ve been exposed to the plant, and that the toxic irritant has spread to your skin.
The best treatment for poison ivy rashes is to avoid them altogether of course, which means being very careful when walking through areas with lots of bush, especially forested areas. If you’re not good at identifying poison ivy plants, you can still avoid contracting the rash by wearing clothes which completely cover your skin, and then washing those clothes as soon as your hike through the woods has been completed.
If your skin has somehow come in direct contact with poison ivy plants, you can still avoid the nasty consequences if you act in time. Within about ten minutes of contact, you can wash the affected area with hot water and soap, and you’ll stand a fair chance of not developing a rash. The key is to remove the toxic urushiol irritant which causes all the problems by penetrating your skin and being absorbed. If this urushiol can be eliminated from skin surfaces before that point, you can avoid developing rashes.
If you’re one of the lucky 35% or 40% of the global population which is not allergic to poison ivy, you may never have to worry about developing the uncomfortable and unsightly skin rashes which can develop after contact with the toxic irritant contained on its leaves. For the majority of people though, there will always be a possibility of being exposed to active poison ivy plants whenever walking through an area which has a heavy content of brush. You can do yourself a huge favor by learning exactly what poison ivy plants look like through the seasons of the year, and then giving these nasty little growths a wide berth whenever you happen to be out and about in a setting where they might be established.