Poison Ivy Remedies: What Really Works

Yep. It happened again, another outbreak of poison ivy. This exposure was many times worse than my first.

My daughters and I picked wild grapes on Wednesday, August 27th. I was standing on the gravel road the entire time and never even thought about poison ivy.

It wasn’t until Friday night that I felt a burning on my left leg. By Saturday I had little bumps appear and the itching started. I just thought they were bug bites.  Ha, was I wrong.

By Sunday I knew it was poison ivy.  By Monday it was spreading. After that it becomes a itchy painful blur.

I did look online for some help. Here’s what I learned:

  • Once you’ve had a reaction, each time you are exposed, your reaction will be worse. I hope not- but it looks like they might be right!
  • Redness and swelling will appear in about 12 to 48 hours. Blisters and itching will follow. Yep. I was a textbook case.
  • Because they don’t contain urushiol, the oozing blisters are not contagious nor can the fluid cause further spread on the affected person’s body. Whew! That’s a relief to know because my legs oozed everywhere!
  • The rash will only occur where urushiol has touched the skin; it doesn’t spread throughout the body. Now this one I don’t agree with. I continually had new blisters appear even in places where I was not exposed, for weeks after my exposure.
  • The rash, blisters and itch normally disappear in 14 to 20 days without any treatment. That’s a relief, this should be over any day now!

Now for treatments. Believe me, I was given lots of advice, from the medical to the downright strange!

  • Take Benedryl. This one I did only at night because Benedryl wipes me out. I get really loopy on it for at least 12 hours. But it did allow me to sleep through the night despite the itching.
  • Use Calamine lotion. I actually used Caladryl which was calamine lotion with Benedryl. Again, I did this in the evenings while the benedryl kicked in. It might have helped a little.
  • Use hydrocortisone cream. I used this with my first outbreak, but not this one. The area was just too big. It wasn’t practical. Would it have helped? I wonder.
  • Using the hottest water you can stand, rinse the area until the inching stops. Believe it not, this does work. l guess the hot water releases the histimines which causes intense itching while the water is running. Seriously, it itches so bad it hurts! But then I would have several almost itch free hours. I did this every morning. (It also helps to remove the pink dried-on Caladryl.)
  • Soak a towel in milk of magnesia and wrap it around the affected area. Hmm…didn’t try this one.
  • Wash the affected area with bleach. I tried this one. Didn’t do much but take the tan off my legs in weird streaks, like tiger stripes.
  • Scrape the blisters with a popsicle stick and pour gasoline on them. Ouch! I can’t even think about this one! Several people swear by it, but I just told them gasoline was way too expensive to pour it on my extensive rash!
  • Use a grinder on them! Umm, I think he was joking on this one. You were joking weren’t you, Roger?

And some practical things that I discovered:

  • Baby wipes are handy to carry around when you are oozing. They kept my legs clean and kept the ooze from drying in orange blobs around my ankles.
  • Pouring hydrogen peroxide over the affected area several times a day also kept the area clean to avoid a secondary infection.
  • A clean washcloth with soap and water will help the itching for awhile.

So here I am, almost 3 weeks from my initial exposure. I still have a nasty rash on my left leg and smaller ones on my right leg. I can’t wear shoes or socks because the one at my ankle is so painful. I can’t have anything touch the rash, that includes pants, skirts and even sheets.

But the swelling has gone down. I’ve slept 2 days in a row without Benedryl and there are no more weeping sores.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.


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