Measles make you bumpy
And mumps’ll make you lumpy
And chicken pox’ll make you jump and twitch
A common cold’ll fool ya
And whooping cough can cool ya
But poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!
If you are one of the approximately 85% of the population who are allergic to poison ivy, then you’re probably already familiar with the intense discomfort it can cause from severely itchy, painful, oozy blisters and rashes.
How to Identify Poison Ivy
Poison ivy grows throughout most of North America, including most Canadian provinces and all U.S. states except Alaska, Hawaii and California. It thrives along the edges of wooded areas, which makes it especially prominent in suburban communities.
A poison ivy plant features three almond-shaped leaflets, and may have grayish-white berries. The leaves, which are smooth and shiny, are often red when the plant is young, turning light green and then dark green as summer progresses, and reverting to bright red or orange again in the fall. The leaves are generally anywhere from 1” to 5” long, but can, in rare cases, grow to be up to 10” long. Poison ivy vines have no thorns, but will often feature fine reddish root hairs along the stem.
Want to Avoid Poison Ivy? Try Rhyming!
Here are a few mnemonics people have used over the years to help them avoid poison ivy:
Leaves of three, let it be.
Hairy vine, no friend of mine.
Berries white, run in fright or Berries white, danger in sight.
Red leaflets in the spring, it’s a dangerous thing.
Side leaflets like mittens will itch like the dickens.
If butterflies land there, don’t put your hand there.
Natural Remedies for Poison Ivy
Here are some natural remedies for poison ivy—if you are unlucky enough to come in contact with it—that will help reduce the itching and pain. Before trying any of these remedies, be sure to first wash the area thoroughly with soap and hot water, using a washcloth. Rinse and repeat at least three times to ensure that all of the poison is gone. Urushiol, the substance in poison ivy that makes you itchy, is a sticky oil that is hard to wash away. Make certain to wash all clothes, and anything else that came into contact with the plant, too.
- Witch hazel applied to the affected area can soothe the itching.
- Cover the rash with a paste made from cold coffee and baking soda. A paste made from water and cornstarch will also work.
- Take a warm bath with oatmeal or Epsom salt. Use about one cup of oatmeal or two cups of Epsom salt in a full bathtub.
- Rub a banana peel or a watermelon rind over the rash and don’t rinse it off. Allow it to dry naturally.
- Make a paste from one tablespoon of turmeric with equal parts of lime or lemon juice and apply to the affected area.
- Whip a raw potato into a paste in your blender. Spread it onto your skin and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Make a paste from one tablespoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of peppermint essential oil, 1 to 2 cups green clay, and a little water (just enough to give it a pasty texture). Apply liberally and leave in place for approximately 30 minutes. Rinse. Apply 2-3 times daily.
- Rub dishwashing liquid onto the skin area with a washcloth and allow it to dry. Reapply as needed.
- Apply tea made from burdock root or peach tree leaves. Allow it to dry on the skin, and reapply as often as desired.
- 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and spray the affected areas and allow to air dry. Helps to treat symptoms as well as to dry the rash.
Not-So-Fun Fact: Urushiol remains active for up to 5 years. So even a dead poison ivy plant can cause a rash!
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.