I haven't had poison ivy in probably 15 years or more and never to this extent. I guess because I'm always tromping around in the woods and spent my youth in the backhills of Ohio without any significant memory of this terrible ailment, I honestly had it in my head that I didn't really get it. This overconfidence allowed me to casually spent 3 or more hours clearing out an overgrown corner of our yard, knowing that there was poison ivy there.
For some reason, it's the only area of the yard that I don't have a 'before' picture, so you'll just have to use your imagination. The overgrown tangled mess basically consumed the entire space that it is now brown with no grass growing. It was so dense that we couldn't even mow or really weed-whack the area last year. It was a total eye sore for the neighbors being that it's the back corner of our property on the street.
So as I was clearing, I did clip a few pieces of poison ivy and wearing gloves, carefully placed them directly into the lawn bag thinking I was safe. Considering that there were poison ivy roots wrapped around the tree, at least an inch in diameter I should have known that it was strong plant and would be throughout the overgrown mess of brush I was handling...in a t-shirt. Basically, I'm an idiot.
The good thing. I learned a lot about poison ivy and have now development a serious paranoia, which has allowed me to locate several other deadly areas in our yard. First things first. You can not spread poison ivy from the rash. I once mad Jim sleep in long sleeves in 80 degree weather because I didn't want to 'catch' his poison ivy. I'm guessing this misconception comes from my childhood. I'm can just hear my mother telling me or a sibling "don't scratch it, you'll spread it everywhere..." You can only get poison ivy by coming in contact with the oil either from the plant or by touching garden tools, etc with the oil on them. If you care, read more here.
The rash is an allergic reaction and the treatment is basically waiting for the skin cells to die off and new ones to take their place, with healing time ranging from 10 days to 6 weeks. Six weeks! Are you freakin' kidding me?! I really don't have six weeks to sit around itchy and scratching in long sleeves trying to conceal this hideous skin disorder. I'm happy to report than in less than 10 days I was able to eliminate all the itching with some areas completely healed and all areas well on the way to being healed.
My theory was to completely dry out my skin first to try and get rid of the old rashy allergic skin cells. I basically bathed myself in tea tree oil for the first week. Seriously. I purchased Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle body wash, 4 bottles of pure tea tree oil, and one bottle of Vitamin E oil.
- I took hot showers twice a day using a clean wash cloth to scrub all affected areas with the tea tree body wash. The hot water and tea tree oil both help dry up your skin.
- Immediately out of the shower I used clean cotton rounds to wipe all the affected areas with the pure tea tree oil. At this point my skin was looking pretty red and fiery but also feeling very cooled and soothed. I should also mention that tea tree oil has a pretty strong smell. Jim could smell me have way down the hall even with the bathroom door closed. The smell does fade but not quickly, so I also purchased some over the counter anti-itch lotion for the pharmacy to apply before and during work.
- I also applied tea tree oil whenever I was home and start to feel the itch coming back and immediately before bed. At bedtime I also popped two Benadryl, hoping to kill the antihistamine reaction over night and keep nighttime scratching to a minimum.
- I followed this for about six days. At this point I noticed that my skin was really starting to dry up and scale over and I really wasn't itching much. I decide to continue with the tea tree oil body was scrub down but, switched over to Vitamin E oil after showering to start healing up the skin. (ps. Vit E is also GREAT for burns, scars, etc.) Vitamin E oil is...well oily, so after showering I generous applied to all areas plaqued by scaly, scabbing rashy skin, then put on a a long sleeve shirt to avoid getting oil on any furniture, etc.
- It's now about day 11 and I've taken to wearing short sleeves without shame. Considering how BAD I had it, I think under 2 weeks is a speedy recovery. There are still some areas that have faint marks, but I think they'll be gone within the next few days with continued Vit E treatment.
So, farewell poison ivy and shall we never meet again.