Taking on Poison Ivy: How to Remove It Before It's Out of Control
What is Poison Ivy?
Poison ivy, scientifically known as Toxicodendron radicans, is native to North America. It is found in various environments, from the countryside to urban areas. The plant contains urushiol, an oily compound that causes an allergic reaction in 85% of humans. This reaction is known as contact dermatitis, resulting in an itchy, blistering rash that can be painful if left untreated. Poison ivy and urushiol are highly contagious, and you can be infected simply by coming into contact with the residue on clothing, tools, and even pets.
How to Identify Poison Ivy
Being able to identify poison ivy is the first step to avoiding it. The plant typically has three pointed leaflets, although it can sometimes have more. The leaves are usually glossy and green but can change color with the seasons - turning red in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. It can grow as a shrub or vine, often climbing trees or fences. It's important to note that even if poison ivy or oak appears dead, it can still carry urushiol and cause a reaction. If you are aware of a poison ivy plant, you should steer clear of it altogether to avoid its harmful effects.
What to Do if Poison Ivy Comes into Contact with Your Skin
If poison ivy comes into contact with your skin, it's crucial to act quickly to minimize the risk of developing a rash or spreading the urushiol oil to other areas of your body. Follow these steps:
- Avoid touching or scratching: Do not touch or scratch the affected area, as this can spread the oil to other parts of your body or even other people.
- Wash your skin: Tecnu Ivy Complete Kit is an excellent all-in-one tool to cleanse skin after poison ivy contact. Wash the affected areas with cool or lukewarm water and the Poison Ivy Scrub as soon as possible. Rinse your skin thoroughly to remove all traces of the oil. Washing within 30 minutes of contact can significantly reduce the risk of a severe reaction.
- Clean under your nails: If you've accidentally touched the affected area or the plant, clean under your fingernails to remove any remaining urushiol.
- Remove contaminated clothing: Take off any clothing that may have come into contact with poison ivy and follow the proper decontamination steps mentioned in this article.
- Decontaminate other items: If your shoes, tools, or other things have come into contact with poison ivy, decontaminate them to avoid further exposure. Tecnu Detox Wipes make it easy to wipe down anything that could be contaminated; they can also be carried with you on the go for convenient, fast response.
- Monitor for symptoms: Monitor the affected area for any signs of a rash, itching, or swelling. If you develop a reaction, follow the recommended steps for treating a poison ivy rash below.
- Seek medical attention if needed: If you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, intense swelling, or a rash covering a large area of your body or face, seek medical attention immediately.
What to Do if Poison Ivy Gets on Clothes
Poison ivy is highly transferable on clothing and tools. If you, unfortunately, come into contact with poison ivy, it's critical to decontaminate your clothes as soon as possible to prevent further exposure. A quick encounter with the plant can spread an undesirable reaction to you and your loved ones.
- Wear gloves: Before handling contaminated clothing, wear rubber or disposable gloves to avoid getting the oil on your hands.
- Isolate the clothes: Keep contaminated clothes separate from other laundry to prevent the spreading of the toxic oil.
- Wash your clothes separately in a washing machine with hot water and heavy-duty laundry detergent. Be sure to wash the clothes on a high heat setting and dry them accordingly, which ensures proper oil removal.
- Dispose of the gloves: After handling the clothes, dispose of the gloves carefully.
How to Decontaminate Tools & Shoes
Urushiol can stick to the surfaces of tools and shoes, making them a source of further exposure. You can spread urushiol to your loved ones simply by walking through your home with contaminated shoes or sharing unclean gardening tools. Follow these steps to protect yourself and your loved ones:
- Wear gloves: Always wear gloves to avoid direct contact with urushiol.
- Wipe down surfaces: Use Tecnu Detox Wipes to wipe down contaminated surfaces.
- Wash with warm, soapy water: You may also soak your tools in hot, soapy water to remove all urushiol.
- Dry thoroughly: Dry the items thoroughly before using them again and store them in a dry place.
How to Treat a Poison Ivy Rash
If you cannot clean the area quickly and develop a poison ivy rash, you'll want to take steps to limit and soothe the symptoms. The rash typically appears red, blistering, extremely itchy, and uncomfortable.
- Avoid touching or scratching: It's easier said than done but avoid rubbing or touching the affected area. As the rash blisters, urushiol oil can spread.
- Wash your skin: It's essential to clean the skin and affected area thoroughly.
- Apply a topical anti-itch gel: Apply an anti-itch gel like Calagel Pain Relieving Gel. This topical treatment offers instant itch relief.
- Monitor for symptoms: Monitor the affected area for signs of spreading or swelling.
- Wash any linens or clothes that have come into contact with the rash: Be sure to wash any linens or clothes that have come into contact with the rash on a hot cycle to prevent the further spread of urushiol.
- Seek medical attention if needed: If you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, intense swelling, or a rash covering a large area of your body, face, or genitals, seek medical attention.