Did you know that most people are sensitive to the oily resin (urushiol) contained in poison ivy? Urushiol is found year-round in all parts of the poison ivy plant, including the roots, flowers, leaves, and stems. Come in contact with the urushiol, and you could be the recipient of an itchy poison ivy-caused skin irritation.
Poison sumac and poison oak also contain the oily urushiol allergen.
Besides the dangers of ticks, poison ivy (along with its cousins poison oak and poison sumac) rank right up there as one of the most un-fun aspects of being outdoors in the summertime.
How to Minimize the Effects of a Poison Ivy Rash
If you do happen to get urushiol on your body, there’s still hope. While researchers have discovered a special non-toxic spray that will glow wherever the urushiol exists on your body, it’s not for sale yet.
One of the tricky things about a poison-ivy associated rash is that you don’t have to actually touch the poison ivy! Coming into contact with anything that has urushiol residue on it is enough to give you skin irritation.
You’re just going to have to remember if you rubbed up against any brush or poison ivy-looking foliage on the trail, or if you could touched your shoes, a walking stick, or something else that came into contact with the poison ivy.
Washing Your Skin Is the Best Way to Remove Urushiol
Jim Brauker, Ph.D. spent 25 years as a biomedical scientist studying skin inflammation. He says that,
Timely urushiol removal can prevent poison ivy skin reaction. The key is to understand how poison ivy works.
While he tries his best to not come in contact with poison ivy and urushiol, he makes sure to wash his skin with soapy water and a rag just to be safe.
Use a wash cloth to completely remove the urushiol oils from your skin.
He says the type of soap you use isn’t that important. What is important though, is that you use a loofah or washcloth to scrub all areas of your body, removing the urushiol oils from the skin.
Watch Dr. Brauker explain how he cleans off urushiol after returning from the outdoors.
(Source: Extreme Deer Habitat)
If you like to venture off the blacktop and into heavily wooded areas that might contain poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, it’s important to remember that getting the urushiol oil off of your skin is the name of the game. And the way to do that? Some plain soap, a rag, and a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease.