Natural Ways to Prevent Poison Ivy Rash

“Leaflets of three, beware of me,” is an age-old axiom taught to children to help them identify poison ivy. Surprisingly, most people don’t develop a rash after their first romp through this deliciously-evil but innocent-looking plant, says the American Academy of Dermatology. With repeated exposure, however, around 85 percent will eventually have an allergic response to an oil in poison ivy called urushiol once it penetrates the skin. Natural ways to prevent poison ivy rash include learning to identify it, avoiding contact and taking immediate steps once your skin is exposed to urushiol.

Preventing Exposure

The best way to prevent a poison ivy rash is to identify it and stay away from it. Poison ivy and poison oak leaves are characterized by three smaller leaflets; the leaflet in the middle has a longer stalk than those flanking it. In the East, Midwest and South, it presents as a vine, while in the far Northern and Western states, Canada and Great Lakes, it grows as a shrub. The Mayo Clinic suggests staying on cleared pathways when hiking and camping and pitching your tent in cleared areas. If poison ivy is on your property, remove it using heavy gloves. Urushiol can even be inadvertently transferred to you through your pet’s fur, so keep Fido on a tight leash in heavily-wooded areas. Don long pants, socks, shoes and gloves for extra protection when traversing the great outdoors .

Preventing Rash

If you know or suspect you’ve been exposed to poison ivy, act quickly. Integrative physician Dr. Andrew Weil advises washing well with cold water immediately after potential exposure to prevent or limit symptoms. He also advises cleansing the skin with rubbing alcohol within the first few hours to remove urushiol oil. Launder your clothing and wash any contaminated items, such as garden tools, gardening gloves, jewelry and shoes. If you don’t have the time to do this right away, the Mayo Clinic indicates that contaminated clothing and other items can be stored in a plastic bag.

Poison ivy Rash Treatment

If you start to itch, run hot water (“as hot as you can stand,” Weil says) over affected parts of the skin. Weil explains that itching will temporarily get worse but will cease for several hours. You can use this treatment as many times as necessary, he says. Aloe vera gel is one topical that treats poison ivy naturally; however, Weil gives preference to witch hazel for blisters in both adults and children. Other methods of assuaging itching suggested by the Mayo Clinic include applying cool compresses to the rash and taking cool soaks with collloidal oatmeal added to your bathwater.