poison ivy, suffering from poison ivy, Aysa

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are wild plants that thrive in many wooded parts of this country. They all produce a compound called urushiol. People who get this chemical on their skin frequently develop a contact dermatitis that is maddening, with a rash and itching that just won’t quit. The suffering can be intense. Is there a way to stop the suffering from poison ivy?

Preventing Suffering from Poison Ivy with a Wash:

Q. I have been using Tecnu for years to control poison ivy. It removes the poison ivy oil completely when it’s used after contact with the plant. It also helps dry up the rash if I haven’t washed with it after contact, though I don’t know why.

Some people use Zanfel for their poison ivy rash, but I have found that it is pricey. It costs about ten times more per ounce than Tecnu.

Removing Urushiol to Stop Suffering from Poison Ivy:

A. Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash and Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser help remove the urushiol oil from exposure to poison ivy, oak or sumac. If used promptly after contact, these washes can prevent the itchy rash that normally results.

A barrier cream such as IvyX can be applied before going outside. It should help protect the skin from urushiol and make it easier to wash off.

The sooner you remove uroshiol after contact with poison ivy or poison oak, the better the result. Scrubbing with soap and water can be effective. Alcohol may also be used to wipe off urushiol before it causes a reaction. Best of all, of course, is to avoid it in the first place. Remember the simple guidance: “Leaves of three, let it be.”

A Solution for Poison Ivy Rash:

Another reader offered this about using Zanfel to ward off suffering from poison ivy:

Q. I read in your column about using banana peel on a poison ivy rash. There’s a product out there that beats anything I have ever tried for my severe bouts of poison ivy.

Zanfel is a mixture of soaps that has an affinity for the urushiol oil that causes the rash. One day I got a few spots on my cheek from cutting weeds and used Zanfel as directed. The itching stopped for six hours after use, and the rash was gone in about six days; normally the poison ivy rash remains for 14 to 16 days.

Zanfel to Wash Away Urushiol:

A. The maker of Zanfel maintains that it is able to break the bond that urushiol makes with skin so that the irritating oil can then be washed off. If you live where poison ivy, oak or sumac is abundant, it certainly makes sense to keep either Zanfel or Tecnu on hand. Use it promptly upon coming in from outside. Ordinary soap also works if used soon after exposure.

Tell us how you avoid suffering from poison ivy in the comment section below.

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  1. LeRoy
    Castle Rock, Co

    In the late 1970’s,I had a terrible case of PI from wrists to elbows on both arms and knees to groin on front of both legs. We were visiting family 1200 miles from home and went to the doctor for a shot and prescription salve which had no effect. A miserable nonstop trip home by auto and arrived at the inlaw’s home about 2: AM. My wife’s father said he could”fix” it and I was a doubting Thomas as I had been in misery for a week! He took some boric acid powder (not measured) and shaved some Fels Naphtha soap into it and heated it and it looked like dirty dishwater.

    He had me soak a wash cloth in it and said to put it on affected areas as hot as I could stand it and said do it now and in the morning and one more time and it would be cured. The relief was immediate and felt so good that I could have cried. I did as he said and it was cured! It has been a “go to” cure ever since!

  2. Mary K

    Lava soap has worked for my family for decades. I always carry a piece of a bar on outdoors adventures and suds up if any contact is suspected. Never a rash has been seen after that.

  3. Cathy
    Milford, Ct.

    Try Aquafresh toothpaste, only, because no other toothpaste works. A few years ago I came down with shingles and it became “runny” and itched terribly, plus it’s very painful. I forget how it came about but somehow I came up with using Aquafresh and rubbed it in and leaving a light “paste” over it. It worked beautifully. Just the other day my husband got poison ivy on him while clearing some brush away from the house. He used the Aquafresh toothpaste I left in the cupboard and it also took the itch away as well as getting rid of it within a few days.

  4. Steven
    Myrtle Beach, SC

    I take Oral Ivy every day. It has dramatically reduced my reaction to poison ivy exposure. I very rarely get a rash even though I work outside and hike in the woods regularly. Prior to using it I was highly susceptible to rash and typically required a shot from the urgent care to cure it.

  5. Joe
    Raleigh, North Carolina

    I had poison oak on both forearms. I washed with soap and hot water then applied the inside of a banana peel. No more itching and the rash did not both me any more and was gone in 2 days!

  6. Arlene

    My husband keeps a bottle of Dawn dish detergent in the shower. Even if he washes at the sink after being in the garden, he will use Dawn in the shower to cut through any oil he may have missed.

  7. Patsy W
    Ringgold, Virginia

    My Rheumatologist told me to get FELS-NAPTHA Laundry bar & Stain Remover to take a shower with & it worked. Wal-mart $.97 a bar

  8. RayLin S

    I got my first case of Poison Ivy a month ago and had to ask a nurse what it was. So it was a few days before I knew. I used Hibiclens to wash it carefully, applied Iodine and a piece of DuoDerm bandage and it never spread and quit itching.

    My only problem was I also got a rash from the DuoDerm bandage glue – but that only lasted a couple of days. It could have been a Poison Ivy/glue reaction too since I have used another piece of the DuoDerm on a blister and no rash or itching.

  9. ebm

    Would the hot water method recommended on PP, hot spoon or
    hot water application, work? A helpful hint would be:
    Are Tecnu and Zanfu OTC or prescription. If Zanfu is already
    expensive, going to Er or Urgent Care for a prescription would
    add to the pain!

  10. Karen
    New Waterford, Oh

    My mother used to bathe us with Fels Naptha soap after contact with poison ivy.

  11. steve

    As a kid and teen who spent hours and hours all around Poison Ivy, I never got a rash. But my friends often did. I always wondered why, until I recently saw a video explaining all this. I’ve always bathed using a soapy wash cloth. the oils from the poison Ivy are in the air around the plants. So you can’t avoid them coating your skin. it seems the oils from the Poison Ivy are easily removed using a soapy wash cloth, if you do it daily. Just using soap and your hands leaves these oils on the skin. Which eventually cause the rash.

  12. Meg
    North Carolina

    My husband and I are both highly allergic to poison ivy. We’Verizon both had excellent results using Tecnumber. It eliminates the oils that cause itching and dries up the rash.

  13. Patti
    Hendersonville, NC

    I had suffered terribly with poison ivy rash before these 2 products came out. I shower with the Technu body wash(like a liquid soap) as soon as I am done working out in the yard. If I do still manage to get a rash (usually in a small place I missed with the Technu), that’s when I use the Zanfel. You have to follow the directions explicitly. It works MUCH better than the comparable Technu scrub(not the body wash). They are both gritty and come in a tube. But the Zanfel is the one that actually works after you get the rash. It is worth its’ weight in gold if you suffer like I have.

  14. Vicki

    Washing with yellow soap, like Fels Naphtha, after contact also removes some of the oil from PI. I have found the best cure to be washing with yellow soap, then rubbing the spot of contact with the juice of the jewel weed plant. The juice is found in the stem of the plant.

    The best preventive is an old Native American practice of making a tincture or tea of the PI leaves and drinking a tsp of it each day. They also would eat 3 buds of the PI plant each day for several weeks. As the buds grow, they got a bigger dose each day. It worked as a homeopathic preventive, similar to a vaccine. Euell Gibbons wrote about this.

  15. Jennifer
    South Carolina

    I am sorry to say that I have a good bit of experience with poison ivy. Tecnu doesn’t work reliably as a preventative. If I continue to use it after an outbreak, however, it does seem to reduce the duration of the rash by up to 50%. My rashes last about 2 weeks, even with topical treatments like Caladryl. With Tecnu, it’s more like a week.

  16. Susan

    I’ve posted this in the past, but since you asked……keep an Aloe plant. They’re available at most nurseries. When your poison ivy rash appears and starts to itch, break off one or two of the ‘spines” from the Aloe plant, and spread the clear, gel-like contents over the rash on clean skin. It dries quickly.

    It stops the itching and speeds healing. Apply morning and evening and/or after showering. Last time I had poison ivy, I used this treatment and the rash was gone in two days. I didn’t even need corticosteroid cream for the itch. It’s easy, cheap and it works.

    Keep the plant in a sunny window when it’s cold outside; it can be taken outside in summer.

  17. SherriD

    I have found that a vigorous scrubbing with Dawn dish detergent removed the oil. I washed my clothes in it also. Removing the oil is paramount to avoiding or limiting the outbreak. I even washed my leather garden gloves in Dawn in case there was oil on them. The oil doesn’t seem to degrade, it needs removal. I was also given Domeboro medicated soak by a friend who swears by it. You can find it in the first aid section of Wahlgreen’s.

  18. Thomas

    I had a bad case of poison oak (ivy) and nothing seemed to help, until an Aunt suggested I soak in a bathtub with a box of baking soda in as little water as possible and still cover all areas. It worked like overnight.

  19. alxzba

    At least after the rash forms, and before trying these name brands, give a try to Witch Hazel a couple times a day. It kills the itch, and in a couple of days the rash dries up. Works for me. Have not tried the second remedy, but has been recommended by friend: Listerine, either the brand name or generic.

  20. carol

    There was a product on the market that they don’t make anymore for unknown reasons called Ivy Block that was OTC. A Pharmacist told me about, and it worked wonders.

  21. Leslie

    I thought there was a female scientist who was almost finished with developing a black light device that would show urushiol on human skin, on clothes and on pets. Any word on whether or when such a device will be available?

  22. Penny
    Mantoloking, NJ

    A fellow farmer taught me years ago to boil up jewelweed with water, and then keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. It will prevent poison ivy rash if wiped on before being exposed to the ivy, and will help dry up the rash and temporarily relieve the itching. Twigs and leaves of birch boiled with water will work as well, if jewelweed isn’t available.

    About 10 years ago I had a NAET (Nambutripad Allergy Elimination Technique) treatment for poison ivy after having gone through the entire series of protocols for allergies, and have not had the characteristic wet blisters from poison ivy since. Instead I get a patch of rough, red skin that reverts to normal after a few days without itching!

  23. phil

    One of the reasons I grow comfrey is to be able to use the juice of the stems to relieve pain and swelling of poison ivy. It works also to control the rash but the pain goes away immediately.

  24. Gerry

    A long time ago my cousin told me he showers with a yellow soap after any poison ivy exposure, and it cuts the itch. I still have about half a bar (don’t remember the name, wrapper is long gone) and it works for p.i. and other itchy things, like terrible mosquito bites which I get here in Inverness, Fl.

  25. Linda
    Lewisville, TX

    In 2005, I got a rash which itched and oozed, on my right leg at the knee and above the ankle. I do not go outside! 3 doctors did not know what it was, as I had not been outside. My cousin, who had worked for the forest service in college told me I had poison ivy and to get some spray Benadryl which would dry it up and stop the itch. (We had been at a friend’s lake house, and my husband was helping his friend clean a lot at the lake. He showered and changed before we drove home. He put his boots on top of my belongings which I had already loaded in the car. His boots had that oil, which transferred to the bottom of my capri pants.) THE SPRAY BENADRYL WORKED!

  26. Alice

    Too bad old fels-naphtha is no longer available. It cleaned the oil from your skin and your clothes for maybe 25 cents a bar.

    • Harry

      I found Fels Naphtha at Walmart.
      I get poison Ivy bad, so anymore I just keep my eyes pealed for it as it is easily recognizable. I don’t wade into areas that I can’t see what is there either. The last time I had it I used benadryl for the itch and Portland cement to dry the blisters. Portland cement sucks the moisture right out of the blisters and they dry quickly.

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