If you ever post a request on a social
network or forum for help with a poison ivy or oak rash, you will
get a whole lot of advice. Unfortunately, when it comes to poison
ivy and oak there are many misconceptions about what you should do
to treat the rash so "helpful advice" can become confusing. And
these misconceptions about how to deal with a poison ivy or oak
rash can cause more problems for you.
Here are a few that we come across quite often:
- Use household bleach on your skin - Bleach can
cause chemical burns, irritation and swelling when exposed to skin.
It can also destroy melanin (pigment) in the body. Why would you
want to put this on your already irritated skin? Stick to a
cleanser designed to remove urushiol (the rash causing oil) like
- Wash with very hot water - Some people will
tell you to use very hot water when washing your poison ivy or oak
rash because it feels good. The problem with using hot water is
that it opens up the pores in your skin creating a pathway for
urushiol to enter. Using cool water will keep the pores
- Not understanding why the rash is spreading -
Most people think that the continuing spread of their rash is from
the initial contact with the plant. However if you have a rash that
is continuing to spread for weeks, you are coming in contact with
the plant oil again. Look for sources of contact with the urushiol
such as shoes, tools, or a pet that may have come in contact with
the plant and are carrying the oil. Urushiol can stay potent on
objects for years.
- Breaking blisters - The blisters that form
during a poison ivy or oak rash outbreak are part of your body's
allergic response and do not contain the rash-causing oil. Blisters
do not cause the rash to spread. The blisters should not be broken
on purpose as it creates a potential point of entry for bacteria
that could result in a skin infection. Keep blistered skin loosely
covered with a bandage to help protect it.
What you do need to know is that there are two important steps
that should be taken when treating a poison ivy or oak rash.
First, you need to remove the source of the rash from your skin.
This is an oily substance found in all parts of the plant including
leaves, stems, and roots called urushiol (pronounced
ooh-roo-she-all). Because urushiol is an oil, traditional soap and
water is not always enough to remove it and can sometimes result in
spreading the oil around. A cleanser designed to break through the
oil, such as Tecnu
Original or Tecnu Extreme, will be more effective at
removing urushiol from your skin.
Second, you need to treat the symptoms of the rash. The itching
and burning sensation can be quite painful for some people, and
some rashes can blister and ooze quite badly. Over-the-counter
medications such as Calagel or Tecnu Rash Relief Spray can help
alleviate the symptoms. If you have a very intense rash and the OTC
medications are not enough for you, be sure to consult a
So remember the two steps to treating poison ivy and oak rash
are remove the oil and treat the symptoms. If you need advice about
what products to use, consult a medical professional such as a
pharmacist, nurse or doctor.