Did you know you may have a treatment for poison ivy rash or poison oak rash growing in your own backyard?
You may feel cursed if you have poison ivy (Rhus radicans) growing in your yard (to determine if you do, have a look at the photos in my "Pictures of Poison Ivy" gallery). But you're hardly alone. The dominion of this itch-inducing menace is far-flung, making the plant the best known of The Big 3: poison ivy, sumac and oak. Heck, there was even a hit song by the same name in 1959 by The Coasters. And, of course, the plant's namesake is a female villain in the Batman comics.
Jewelweed: Treatment for Poison Ivy Rash, Poison Oak Rash the Natural Way
The best treatment for poison ivy rash or poison oak rash is prevention. That advice, however, will do you little good when you accidentally come into contact with it in your backyard. Fortunately, you just might have another weed in the backyard whose juice acts as a treatment for poison ivy rash, relieving that awful itch. The weed is called, "jewelweed" (sometimes misspelled as "jewel weed"), or "touch-me-not" (a name I explain in my article on impatiens). Its taxonomy, Impatiens capensis, classifies it as a wild version of the colorful impatiens plants sold so widely for shady annual beds (for a photo of this weed, see picture on right). However, for jewelweed to be most effective as a treatment for poison ivy rash, you really need to derive an extract from it. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, purchasing a jewelweed extract is more feasible than making your own.
Other examples of rash-causing plants may well coexist in your backyard right alongside plants that help counteract their effects. While not dreaded as much as Rhus radicans, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is certainly a backyard nuisance. When pricked by its spines while working out in the garden, your skin will feel like it's on fire! Fortunately, this bane, too, has its natural balm: Rumex crispus, better known as "dock." Just roll a dock leaf between your thumb and forefinger to crush it, then doctor your wound with the juicy pulp left over. Unlike using jewelweed as a treatment for poison ivy, the fresh juice should be sufficient -- no need to go out and buy an extract. Incidentally, stinging nettle should not be confused with spotted dead nettle, which is one of the most desirable shade-loving plants -- just another example of why we use scientific names when we wish to be clear about plants.
The First Line of Defence in the Treatment for Poison Ivy Rash, Poison Oak Rash
The first thing you should do for the treatment of poison ivy rash, regardless of whether you intend a natural or a medical treatment, is to take the following steps within 10-15 minutes of contact:
- Apply rubbing alcohol to the infected area.
- Rinse with water (any water).
- Wash up with soap and warm water.
Treatment for Poison Ivy Rash, Poison Oak Rash the Medical Way
Different people find different degrees of relief in the treatment of poison ivy rash through over-the-counter remedies, such as hydrocortisones. But some people have such a severe reaction to the plant that they need to visit a physician. It usually takes about 2-3 weeks to get rid of the ivy rash. "Severe reactions can be treated with prescription oral corticosteroids," according to Vincent Iannelli, About's Pediatrics Guide. Oral corticosteroids are prescribed "if the rash is on the face, genitals, or covers more than 30 percent of the body. The drug must be taken for at least 14 days, and preferably over a three-week period." About's First Aid Guide, Rod Brouhard, has a tip about diphenhydramine that could aid you in your treatment of poison ivy rash.
About's Dermatology Guide offers a fine article on the treatment of poison ivy rash, including prevention tips and an overview of the medical options for relief, from antihistamines to Calamine Lotion.
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