Oh, man, I got a terrible itchy rash; where’s the lotion? It’s poison ivy, the plant with three leaves that wreaks such havoc when you go in the woods. But it’s possible to avoid getting poison ivy even if you’ve been exposed to it. You need to understand how urushiol, the irritating oil in poison ivy, works. Urushiol is the cause of the rash and is found not only in poison ivy but also poison oak and poison sumac.

It’s a thick, sticky substance that will soak into the skin, causing a rash in 2 to 8 hours. Dr. Jim Brauker, Ph.D., explains that you have to wash off the urushiol, and friction is the key to removing it. Use any soap and layer it on thickly, then scrub it off with a wet washcloth. Scrub vigorously because it takes a lot of friction to remove the urushiol.

Wash three times, rinsing thoroughly each time. Be especially sure to scrub between fingers, behind ears, and other places that showering might miss. It takes careful washing to get it off because urushiol is invisible as well as sticky. But Dr. Brauker, who spends a great deal of time in the woods, has found this to be very effective. So poison ivy doesn’t have to put a damper on your use of the camper.

“Wish I would’ve known this during my years as a rock climber!!! I had it BAD many times, but none as bad as when I climbed Devils Tower. It was spring, so we didn’t realize that the big leafless bushes on either side of the trail that led to the start of the cliff were Poison Oak and of course the leaves were all over the ground. As it got close to where the climb started, we were pulling ourselves up and over big boulders that were covered in the oil. We reversed this as we hiked back down after the climb, so I ended up sitting on the edge of the boulders and lowering myself. Long story short I was covered in ulcerations. chest and stomach, front of my thighs, Butt, arms and the backs o my legs. It was a nightmare!!!!?”

“I would like to add that using a rag and isopropyl alcohol wiping down any skin that should come in contact with the plant immediately. Isopropyl alcohol with not only help remove the oil but it will also crystallize the oil into a larger particle reducing the penetration of the oil on your skin.
You may also apply to all exposed skin with olive oil before working in or around the plant. The olive oil will act more like a shield preventing the urushiol from entering the pores of the skin.?”

“I’ve always wondered if it would be possible to create a compound that reacts with urushiol and makes it turn orange. Spray it on a plant that you’re not sure if it’s poison ivy or not, spray it on yourself to see if you missed any spots cleaning, etc. Of course, even better would be if the compound also neutralized whatever it is in the urushiol that causes the rash, but that’s probably asking a little much.?”