If you thought you left poison ivy behind when you departed the Midwest for South Florida, you were wrong. If you thought you may have outgrown that childhood allergy to poison ivy, you are also probably wrong. If you have been gardening in the same place for 30 years without seeing poison ivy and believe that the 3 leaf weed must be something else, chances are you are wrong again. If you see the three leaves but the stem isn’t red, it is probably poison ivy growing in the shade. But hey, you went ahead and pulled the weed barehanded anyway.
Now what? If you haven’t had poison ivy in the past fifty or so years since childhood you will go in search of the latest treatment. Surely in so many decades the treatment has changed and improved dramatically. After all, the standard treatment in the last century was calamine lotion. And if your kid has ever founded a poison ivy club by actively rubbing it on his forearm, you know how ineffective calamine can seem for dramatic cases.
If you are one of the 15 million Americans who are super allergic to poison ivy and begin break out in a rash, swell and itch within 4-8 hours rather than 48 hours, this may become a dermatologic emergency. Get help immediately. Even your eyes may swell shut. For the rest of us poison ivy is just annoying.
Your local pharmacist is probably going to recommend the same treatment your grandmother used. Calamine is still the defacto treatment and is readily available for a couple of dollars. Clean your hands with soap and water; clean again with rubbing alcohol and finally apply calamine. If you use it you may still wish for a better solution. There are mango solutions (beware of allergies), salt water baths, chlorine rinses, and Fels Naptha recommendations all over the web. Beware of causing more problems than just dealing with poison ivy.
A new over-the-counter lotion is available for about 8 times the cost of calamine. Your pharmacy probably carries a box or two of the new “Z” lotion for more than $40, still cheaper than a doctor’s appointment although even the Mayo Clinic web site suggests that most poison ivy is self treatable. So are there any new self treatments that don’t cost an arm and a leg (no puns here)?
The urushiol oil in poison ivy is the cause of our allergies. That is probably why harsh soaps have been used in the past to wash away the oil. There is anecdotal evidence among sufferers that a particular hand degreaser is extremely effective in removing that oil while soothing your poison ivy. Without going into poly-bead scrubbers and the efficacy of ethoxylate and sodium lauroyl sarcosinate in Mean Green Power Hand Scrub, it is a product you will wish you had in the medicine chest because it is not necessarily available locally.
If you are a back packer on the Florida Trail, put a little Mean Green in your pack. It will be worth the extra ounces if you get in poison ivy which covers many parts of the trail. If you are gardening, use it when you take off your gloves. If your dogs have been running through the brush use it after you bathe them. I cannot promise that Mean Green works but they sure ship a lot of it overnight to allergy sufferers. Mean Green is one of those products you might want to have in advance of when you need it. And it can even be used as a degreasing hand cleaner!
Your comments are welcomed. If you have tried Mean Green or other treatments you believe are effective in dealing with poison ivy, tell us right here. The former president of the fourth grade poison ivy club wants to know.