If you know you've come in contact with one of the poisonous plants, rinse immediately with cold water for at least 15 minutes. If you don't know when you came into contact with it or can't stand rinsing with cold water, take a cool (as cool as you can stand it) shower with Dawn dishwashing liquid. Taking a warm shower opens the pores, therefore allowing the urushiol to penetrate the skin more readily. Note: If it's been more than 30 minutes, some of the urushiol will have already absorbed into the skin, so rinsing/washing may not prevent it.
Here are 3 remedies to help relieve the itching and clear it up as quickly as possible if the rash has already developed:
- Hot, hot water: To stop the itching for several hours, soak the affected area in as hot of water as you can stand. This will cause the cells to release histamine at a faster rate, therefore the initial reaction to the heat is itchiness. Gradually increase the temperature until the itching stops. Once the itching has subsided, the cells will be depleted of histamine. The itching should not return for several hours. If you have open blisters, you may cover the area with sterile gauze to help prevent infection. You may repeat this process every time the itching starts again.
- Bleach: Make a solution of 1 part bleach to 1 part warm water. With a cotton ball, apply the solution liberally to the affected area and let dry. The affected area will likely sting during and after application, however this remedy has been known to clear up the outbreak within two days. May be used immediately following the hot water soak.
- Baking Soda and Epsom Salts: Baking soda helps draw toxins out as well as soothes irritated skin, and Epsom salts draw toxins from the skin. Either take a warm bath with 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of Epsom salts or make a solution of 1 part baking soda and 1 part Epsom salts to 4 parts hot water and apply liberally with a cotton ball. Another option is to soak gauze in this solution and apply the wet compress to the affected areas for 15 minutes. One other option for the baking soda is to make a baking soda paste and apply it to the skin.
On a side note, if you have an outbreak but cannot pinpoint where you came in contact with poison ivy, give your pets a bath! Many people come in contact with the poison ivy oils from their pet's fur. Also remember to wash all linens often until the rash is gone.