No, I did not take pictures. At least not of my arms. No one wants to see what that looked like. Suffice it to say it was pretty darn ugly and may well leave my forearms scarred when all is said and done.
I thought I was being logical. I was wearing two shirts, jeans, leather shoes and gloves. The poison ivy was dormant so there were no leaves, just stems and roots. Even Ed says he would have thought himself protected.
Who knew the irritating oil–urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol)– 1) wasn’t an oil but a resin (meaning it’s present in the stem and roots) and 2) could soak through two layers of fabric. I’ve since learned, thanks to my nephew Lorne Lehr who’s a pharmacy student, that I could have purchased Ivy Block and used that to prevent the resin from reaching my skin in the first place. Burning my clothing after the fact might also have been a good idea because, thinking nothing of having worked in the ivy patch for 2 hours and not yet reacting, I continued to wear everything for hours after the fact.
So there I was, three days later, with some really nasty looking burns on my arms and searching for the ultimate relief and cure for what ailed me. It took weeks, but I finally narrowed it down to exactly what it takes to survive Poison Ivy.
First, if you have any of Dr. Bronner’s liquid olive oil soap on hand and you’re aware of the exposure I think you should try using it on the premise that new oil removes old oil. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it… Now onto:
WHAT REALLY WORKED
Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap…buy it as soon as you know you have poison ivy! Better yet, buy it if you know you have any poison ivy in your area and there’s the remotest chance you might be exposed. Or if you know you’re really affect by poison ivy. It has Tea Tree oil in it (I’m allergic) but even at that it was the best thing I did for myself. The second best thing I did for myself was:
Homeopathics (the little blue bottles in the photo) work on the premise of the “hair of the dog that bit you”. By taking a miniscule amount of poison ivy I was telling my immune system to go look for stuff just like that and get rid of it. By the way, the nice thing about homeopathics is you can take them as often as ever ten minutes to get relief. The worst thing that happens if you overdose on homeopathics is you get the symptom you’re trying to alleviate. I once accidentally dumped a full bottle (about an ounce) of a homeopathic for joint pain onto my leg. Every joint in my body stiffened up for about half an hour then it was gone. Can you say the same for any prescription drug you might take?
Boiron Rhus Toxicodendron which is (I’m not making this up) Poison Ivy.
Boiron Apis Mellifica or bee sting. I had a lot of swelling and taking this made a huge difference.
Traumeel. I used this like a lotion, spreading it over every inch of affected skin. It’s both analegsic, pain killing (by the way DO NOT take acetominophen, better known by it’s trademarked name Tylenol. Stuff goes into your liver and lodges there forever, thereby lowering your body’s ability to get rid of the very thing you’re treating with it.) and anti-inflammatory, swelling reducer. It stings a little going on but gave me consistent 2-3 hours of itch and pain relief.
Dr. Christopher’s Original Black This is stuff I keep on hand all the time. It’s a drawing ointment, meaning it’ll pull the poison right out of you. I used it on my inner elbows when they got so swollen I couldn’t bend my arms. I didn’t use it too long because Ed hates the smell. I think it smells like bacon, so I didn’t mind.
OTHER REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF
Sea Salt, Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother), Epsom Salts.
I bathed several times a day for the first week, nightly the following weeks, using either Sea Salt (about a quarter of one of those round boxes) and about a cup of the Bragg’s Vinegar ( I figured the Mother (bacteria) in the vinegar was helping to eat away the dead skin), or Epsom Salts by themselves (itself?).
Gauze, lots of gauze. Rather than try to stop the oozing, I kept my arms covered with gauze and changed it often. It felt better air dried.
Witch Hazel. I didn’t get to this until well near the end of my recovery, but I wished I’d thought of it earlier. The witch hazel is soothing while the alcohol is drying.
Aloe Vera Sunburn Gel. I didn’t use this a lot, but it did really seem to take away the burning. I wished I’d had a more natural version of this, like maybe just the aloe vera juice itself. That would probably have worked quite nicely.
THINGS I TRIED AND DISCARDED
Caladryl. Caladryl went on like a layer of plastic. True, I didn’t ooze while it was on my skin but it felt horrible.
Golden Seal/Bentonite Clay Poultice This was something several people recommended. The bentonite clay is supposed to draw while the golden seal is supposed to be good for rashes and such. I kept the poultice on for half an hour and it felt so awful I never went back to it. After I got the Poison Ivy soap I didn’t need it anyway.
Comfrey Trying this was worth it just because the co-op store sale assistant described wet Comfrey powder as “mucilaginous”. Oh great. Snot. And boy was it ever SNOT! My skin crawled the whole time I wore it, which was for about half an hour. It actually made my skin feel much better, but the experience was not worth repeating. Besides…after I got the Poison Ivy soap…did I say that already?
So there you go. For anyone out there reading this because you’ve got third degree urushiol burns somewhere on your body, my heart goes out to you. Get the soap and get into a salt water bath ASAP! Good luck!
PS…DON’T EVER BURN YOUR POISON IVY! If you think it’s bad on the surface, you’ll hate it on the inside because the urushiol become airborne in the fire and you BREATHE it in. So, NO BURNING!