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How to Treat Poison Ivy – And Kill It If You Know Where It Is

One of the staple of summer [3], it seems, is poison ivy. Whether you stumble upon it while camping, or whether you’ve got a problem with it on your property, poison ivy can cause a great deal of discomfort. Your reaction to poison ivy depends largely on your body chemistry, and how it responds to urushiol, an oily resin common to poison ivy, as well as to poison sumac and poison oak.

Reactions to poison ivy vary. My husband is quite sensitive to poison ivy. He breaks out in severe rashes when he comes in contact with it. I, on the other hand, am not as sensitive. While contact will produce some discomfort, it is not usually the full-blown rash my husband experiences. In most cases, poison ivy isn’t a serious problem. However, you will want to treat it as best you can to alleviate the discomfort until the symptoms subside.

How Do You Know If You Have Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is marked by a rash that includes redness and itching for most people. More severe symptoms can include swelling and blisters. Depending on the way you brush up against the plant, you might have a rash in a straight line, or it might be spread out. You can receive a poison ivy rash from rubbing against clothing or pet fur that has the urushiol on it.

You are likely to see a rash 12 to 48 hours after your exposure. This is one of the reasons that it can be hard to go back and eradicate the poison ivy; you might not remember right where you were when you had the exposure. Depending on how much exposure you end up with, you rash can last up to eight weeks. Realize that you won’t get a rash unless the urushiol from the poison ivy directly contacts with your skin. Bursting blisters won’t cause the spread of poison ivy. The biggest worry you have is causing an infection as germs get into the scratches you make as you scratch.

Treating Poison Ivy

You can treat poison ivy through self-care. Some of the home-based remedies for poison ivy (and poison sumac and poison oak) include:

Remember that you are just treating the symptoms. The rash will go away on its own eventually. If you have a severe reaction, especially if blisters occur, see a doctor. He or she can prescribe appropriate medications. This is especially important if you develop an infection.

Getting Rid of Poison Ivy

If you know where the poison ivy plants are located, you can work to get rid of them. The best way to get rid of poison ivy is to pull it up by the roots. Make sure you are properly protecting your skin before you begin. And realize that you won’t want to touch the portion of your gloves that touched the plants.

Another method is smother the poison ivy. Cut it back, close to the ground, and then cover it with mulch, newspapers, old carpeting, tarps, or other items. Eventually, the poison ivy will die, and it will be easier to pull out the roots. Understand that the urushiol is still present on the plants, though.

Finally, you can use herbicides to kill poison ivy. Ortho Brush-B-Gon and Roundup are both effective in killing poison ivy and other similar plants. Just be aware that it will kill everything else it comes in contact with as well, so you don’t want to spray it on plants you like.

Warning: Never, ever, under any circumstance, burn poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Not only can your skin be coated in the urushiol, but you can also inhale it in this form, causing problems with your respiratory system.

(Photo: Mark Sardella [5])