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Poison Ivy Rash Heals More With A Day at the Swimming Pool

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The Three P’s of Evil Vegetation are Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak.

Relative to the cashew, mango, and sumacs these less desirable plants cause an allergic reaction when making contact to the skin of many people like no other. Members of the Toxicodendron species , these plants have an oily residue (Urushiol) that when coming in contact with skin about 85% of most people have an allergic reaction within 1 to 12 hours of contact. The allergic reaction can be a small red patch of mild irritation to extreme itchy huge blistering sores that swell and ooze with infection. This oozing liquid will cause spreading of the blistering to other areas and to other people if coming in contact with the affected liquid. No matter what ridiculous rumors you've heard about eating poison ivy, do not believe it. Poison Ivy is not on the nutritious vegetable list and is certainly not to be eaten. Some rumors state that if poison ivy is ingested a permanent cure to the allergic reaction is miraculously assured, but it is not recommended by doctors. NEVER EAT THE EVIL POISON IVY PLANT. There are people that have seriously hurt themselves by eating the plant and end up in the hospital or have died. Ingestion does not make you immune to its allergic reaction. The allergic reaction can actually get worse the more you are exposed and your skin can become more sensitive to it over time.

Learn how to identify poison ivy and remove it from your yard safely.

Beware of Fields, Trees and Wooded Areas

Since the age of toddling around, my relationship with the three P’s continuously plagued my summer fun.  As an outdoors kind of girl, I was always busy running through woods, swinging and climbing trees, fishing, hiking, kick-ball, softball and the all the rest of outdoors things kids like to do during the summer in fields and wooded areas.  I was especially susceptible to getting infected when visiting the farm while playing in the cow fields and surrounding woods.  My cousins and I would spend all day exploring, climbing the fruit trees and gorging ourselves with pears, cherries, apples and whatever else we could find when we got hungry.  We weren't allowed in the garden, though we would sneak an occasional strawberry when my aunt wasn't looking.  Those are memories I will always cherish;  except of course, for the itchy rash that developed afterwards.

The absolute worse season of poison ivy infection ever

I remember I was age 11. The neighborhood weed cleanup in the area beside my house went well. Huge piles of vegetation remained at the end of the day and instead of letting it naturally compost, someone had the great idea to burn the debris. The winds were blowing a little that day and the smoke carried an oily residue across my yard where we were playing outside that caused an immediate skin reaction. In the weeks following the burning, I continually fought the spread of poison all over my body. What a nightmare. My skin is very sensitive even today and the itching from that allergic reaction of the poisonous oils was just too much to handle. I would scratch myself until bleeding in my sleep. My mother put socks on my hands to help me stop scratching, but it really didn't do much to help with the constant itching. It got so bad I had to go to the doctor. Apparently back in the day, we didn’t have the product Benadryl. Who knew the immediate benefits of Benadryl , the magical antihistamine that would have helped clear up this whole messy problem in much less time without all the itching can made it worse.

Benadryl is great to have on hand for allergic reactions of any kind

Today, this over-the-counter drug is great to have on hand for any allergic reactions. Especially within the first 10 minutes of showing reaction. Years ago the doctor instructed my mother to wash the infected areas with ivory soap to help dry it…. NOT a good solution. This seemed only to make the condition worsen. The areas got larger and it spread as the scabs that now covered my legs and arms opened weepily. I was not a pretty sight and a terrible dilemma that left permanent scarring as a reminder. The poison continued to spread over my body over a period of a couple weeks until I looked like a leper. Daily my mother would cover me with calamine lotion from head to toe as I tried not to scratch. I can still hear her repeatedly saying, “Stop Scratching!!!” As summer was coming to an end, everyone felt sorry for me as I missed most of it. Playing outside only made me itch terribly. So I had to spend the summer of my 11th year sitting in the house peering out the window watching the rest of friends playing our favorite games. Thank God for Benadryl!!!!

Chlorinated Pool healed My Skin in my 11th year

Chlorine Swimming Pool Saved My Summer Fun

My friend's mother invited me to accompany them to the local swimming pool. I was so excited, but my mother was unsure if I'd be allowed to attend since I looked so diseased. When we arrived, the admission clerk took one look at me with scabs all over my face, arms, legs and the look on her face said it all. When explained that I was not the neighborhood leper, but only infected with poison ivy, she was silent. That silent moment of contemplation by the attendant seemed like an eternity. "Yes," she said miraculously. It was such a blessing and very possibly Holy Intervention that I was allowed to enter the swimming pool that day. I remember how fun it was to be outside with my friends at last as we spent the entire day swimming and having fun in the sun. Upon returning home that day, I remember there was no itching sensation. My mother was also surprised to see that the infection appeared to be drying up in many spots. Apparently the high chlorine levels in the pool arrested the infection and started drying out the poison ivy infection at a fast rate. I was so thankful that by the time school began, I was no longer a gruesome sight.

Learn To Identify Poisons


Learn to identify the varieties of poisonous skin irritants and avoid contact.

Toxicodendron radicans: poison ivy has three shiny leaves with pointed tips. It grows on the ground like a shrub and also loves to climb on up trees. In the winter months when foliage is absent, it is easily located as woody vines growing up trees; surely not to be used as ropes. The new foliage appears in spring and turn reddish in the fall.

Toxicodendron quercifolium on east coast – Toxicodendron diversilobum on west coast. Poison sumac: There is not much difference between them in appearance. The stem has compound leaves usually nine in count. There are non-poisonous sumac plants that are popular for the garden and grow wild, it is difficult to tell the difference without close comparison.

Toxicodendron diversilobum - Poison oak has three leaves on stem and also appears to be a small oak sappling in appearance. The leaves will usually be in groupings or like a bush.  This also gets reddish in appearance in the fall months.

Helpful Tips

  • Cover skin with clothing when going into the woods and fields.  Wash the clothing with hot water upon returning home without getting the clothing in contact with your skin or anything else in your house.  Do not sit down on furniture for example with the potentially infected clothing.  The oils can last as long as 5 years and continue to infect the skin over and over.
  • Never burn piles of vegetation that contain poison debris.  It can also get into your eyes, lungs, and throat when breathing the oily sooty smoke.  I understand from reading medical literature that this can be fatal.  Boy Scouts are not allowed to burn this woody vine in camp fires, what does that tell you.
  • Wash any exposed skin with very hot soapy water to get any poison oils off before they cause an allergic reaction.  Only use soaps without oils.  Soap with oils will actually spread the poisons oils on your skin causing increased infection as was the case when I was a child.  
  • Take antihistamine as instructed by your doctor when infected and showing signs of allergic reaction, the sooner the better. There are also topical antihistamine products produced by Benadryl and other companies to help with the itching.  I find the oral medication more effective, though taking it orally can make you groggy.
  • Dry, cool compresses can stop the pain and relieve some itching temporarily.

Killing Poison Ivy in Lawn and Garden

The best way to eradicate this plant is the kill it to the root by applying brush killer or Round-up solution by spray for by brush.  Spray the foliage or cut the vine and brush the solution on the tip of the vine.  This method will have to be done several times to completely kill a large vine to the root.  If the plant is among your shrubs, cut it where you can reach and brush the stalk where cut to kill the root.  If attempted to pull it up by the roots, some will remain and it will likely return.




HERB on July 04, 2017:

Thanks for your advice, Golfgal! Your childhood experience sounds a lot like mine, and while I have known for years that supposedly it doesn't spread on its own, I am with you. Just ran afoul with some poison sumac and I am going to dry this out as soon as possible. AND I am heading for the pool now!

Naturally RAW on June 12, 2017:

Read that the reason people believe the rash spreads or that the ooze spreads it, is because the area of break out along with the quantity of the oil that got you. That if the oil was more concentrated on your thin skin like wrist it would first appear there. The rash can take 4 hours to 3 weeks before it developes into a rash. So one part of your body may show signs in little time and where the contact was lesser and skin thicker it can take longer before the rash appears. Therefore, making one believe its spreading by scratching and/or its oozing. But its not contagious unless you were in contact with the oils itself. Once one showers or bathes they are no longer contagious. But, warning everything that was touched prior to showering it off could have the oil on it leaving others and self to potentially contract it. (Tools, pets, door knobs etc.) Your clothes too need to be washed by for the oil can be on them so handle with due care! Im lucky at 52 Ive never had it however as a child my sister had a bad case of it her face and eyes arms hands and legs it was awful! No one else in house caught it and she had it for weeks! And with us being 11, 7 and 3 I would think if it were truly contagious we too would have gotten it. IDK though. Reading this for my 10 yr told me she thinks she may have touched some this afternoon. My fingers are crossed hoping she didn't! Guess time will tell.

KaylaMd on August 06, 2016:

Don't scratch/pop the blisters, this could result in scarring...

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Robin on June 10, 2015:

My 8 year son and I came into contact with poison ivy last weekend, while I was trimming the neighbor's grape vine off of my side of the fence (those tiny grapes are highly toxic to pets). Apparently, the poison ivy was mixed into the grape vine. Of course, by the time I'd already come into contact with half of it, I stopped and said "Leaves of 3, let it be....oh for *&$% sake!" By then it was too late.

My son went to the pool a couple of days ago with his buddy, and subsequently came home sunburned...which I was afraid of. I figured that would just add to the itching misery, but apparently not. He hasn't complained of itching ONCE since that trip to the pool. So I can attest that a trip to the swimming pool definitely works, as he has a truly terrible case with some blisters that were 1/4 inch high all over his arms. If you get poison ivy...take a day off and head to the pool straight away!

Jason on April 15, 2015:

I am a physician. You are incorrect about the blisters spreading the rash. The blisters do not contain urushiol, the oil from the plant that causes the rash, they contain your body's immune reaction products. This has been confirmed by research.

Golfgal (author) from McKinney, Texas on January 13, 2015:

Thank you for this medical information...I must have had more exposure. But when I bathed it did spread so I am not sure why. Poison Ivy is the pits.

Chris R on July 25, 2014:

Nice article. You are incorrect about one thing however. I have had probably 12-15 serious bouts with poison ivy or sumac in my lifetime, including the worst case on file in the state of Virginia (at least it was in 1988). The one myth about a poison plant rash is that the oozing fluid spreads the rash. I used to believe this religiously. However, according to numerous doctors who have have studied this in depth, it is not the case. Only the original oils transmitted from the plant can cause the rash to appear. It can be transmitted through fingers, clothing, hats, camping knives, lawn tools, smoke (as in your example) and just about anything else. The oozing fluid, however, is a chemical by-product of your skin's interaction with the toxin, and does not carry the toxin. Therefore, it cannot spread the rash.

NatalieR0se on July 07, 2012:

Great article! I will get some Benadryl today!

Golfgal (author) from McKinney, Texas on June 28, 2012:

Thanks for sharing wade and certainly we are all entitled to our opinions, though I can say from personal experience that the poison rash that I have had many times in life did in fact spread from itching. it also spread when I was told to wash it with dial soap by a doctor in hot water. My legs turned into one big gross seeping mess. I will never forget it and do not wish that experience on anyone. I sufferred all summer.

Wade on June 28, 2012:

Poison ivy DOES NOT spread by scratching or from the pus inside the blisters. The only way to spread is from the actual oils that cause the reaction. Once you have washed up, the rash will only appear where oils have come in contact with the skin.

Golfgal (author) from McKinney, Texas on April 18, 2011:

Thanks for visiting again Eiddwen. Peace.

Eiddwen from Wales on April 18, 2011:

this is a great hub , so well presented with great information.

Thanks for sharing and I rate up.

Take care


Golfgal (author) from McKinney, Texas on April 17, 2011:

Hi Sweetsusieg, Glad your family is healed and well again. Yes, it is amazing how chlorine arrests infection and drys the skin. Much better than alcohol. Thanks for visiting, come again soon. Peace.

Sweetsusieg from Michigan on April 17, 2011:

I have found that a swimming pool also heals chicken pox quickly as well. I spent 3 weeks with 4 of my children having chicken pox, by the time the 5th one arrived they all had been through it. It was April during spring break for the last one. We had planned a trip, the trip included a swimming pool. Rather than a bathing suit we put her in shorts and T-shirt, within 2 days all the spots were gone!

The wonders of chlorine!!

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