Poison ivy season is upon us. You and I both know that this hateful weed is out there, waiting to launch a surprise attack on any unsuspecting passers by. The thought of a brush with poison ivy is enough to make even the most courageous squirm in their socks. But never fear! I have a secret weapon for battling poison ivy!
If you’re new to poison ivy, you should first know that it can (and does) grow anywhere. It grows in the woods, on farms, in the cities, in the suburbs, in parks, and in yards. Poison ivy, of one sort or another, grows in every state in the United States.
Of course, if you want to avoid the horribly itching and painful blisters that spread like wildfire, the best course of action is to be aware of your surroundings and avoid the plant altogether. This is easier said than done. Somehow, poison ivy has an amazing ability to suddenly appear where it didn’t seem to be before. Usually that’s right after you’ve leaned up against it.
How do you know it’s poison ivy? Follow the age-old rhyme: “Leaves of Three, Leave it Be.” This isn’t always true, but it’s a good guideline. This site has an excellent guide for identifying poison ivy (look below the map at the top of the screen).
If you fear that you’ve brushed up against poison ivy, try to not rub your hands on any other parts of your body (especially your face). Poison ivy’s oil is what causes the blisters. If you have it on your hands, for example, and you swat a mosquito on your arm, you now have spread the oil to your arm. If you wipe the sweat off your forehead, it’s now there too and is at risk of spreading to your eyes. (Note: if you do get blisters anywhere near your eyes, get medical help as soon as possible.)
You’ll want to change clothes as soon as possible (remember, your clothes can be spreading the oil too). Put the clothes in a garbage bag by themselves (not with your other clothes). You don’t have to discard the clothes, but I usually wash them a couple of times before wearing them again (and wash my hands with the soap noted below after touching the contaminated clothing).
Then wash your body, and wash well. Then wash again.
Our secret weapon against poison ivy? Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap. I always keep several bars in my first aid kit. Fels-Naptha soap is an old-fashioned laundry soap that was used by our grandparents and great grandparents to remove grease and stains from clothing. It’s been around since 1893, and thankfully is still on the market today.
We lather up the areas that were exposed with the soap. Since the laundry soap is made for taking oil stains out of clothing, we’ve found it effective at breaking down the oil from poison ivy too. Keep in mind that it’s a pretty strong soap, so you may not want to use it on delicate areas.
Also, it’s much better to be preventative than to “wait and see.” If you think you’ve had a run in with poison ivy, wash with Fels-Naptha soap, as soon as you can. (Don’t wait for the blisters to form.) Trust me, it’s well worth being cautious. Try googling “poison ivy rash images” and you’ll see what I mean.