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7 remedies to treat poison ivy

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Summer is finally here, and for many nature lovers and would-be adventurers that means it’s time to flock to the woods, parks and anywhere covered in lush greenery. Whether you are hiking, camping or simply sitting beneath the shade of a tree while channeling your inner Wordsworth, being in such close proximity with nature can bring some irritating consequences — particularly for those who don't notice they are sitting in an evil patch of poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac.


WebMD explains the difference among the three poisonous leaves. Poison oak leaves look like — ding! — oak leaves and have  anywhere from three to seven leaflets per leaf group. Poison oak grows as a vine or a shrub and is more common in the western United States, but  is also found in the eastern United States and, rarely, in the Midwest.

Poison sumac leaves have smooth edges and pointed tips, with seven to 13 leaflets per leaf stem. It grows as a shrub or small tree and is found in wooded, swampy areas, such as Florida and parts of other southeastern states, and in wet, wooded areas in the northern United States.

Poison ivy almost always has three broad, spoon-shaped leaves. Poison ivy can grow as a climbing or low, spreading vine that sprawls through grass (more common in the eastern United States) or as a shrub (more common in the northern United States, Canada, and the Great Lakes region).

If you’ve just muttered, “Too little, too late,” no worries, nature-loving friends. Before you renounce the Great Outdoors, try these remedies to soothe the itch and treat that angry rash.

 

Calamine lotion

Since the dawn of red welts and oozing blisters, calamine has been there. Slather the cool stuff on the affected areas for a bit of relief. There's a reason it remains popular among the covered-in-angry-red-rash set, people.

 

Cold coffee

Grab a cold cup of Joe, no milk and hold the sugar, and head to your bathtub so you can pour it on the affected area without making a mess. According to the Granny Mountain blog, the reason cold black coffee helps sooth the itch is because coffee beans contain chlorogenic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory.

 

Banana peels

They aren't just for comedy relief anymore. According to Lifehacker, rubbing a banana peel on the affected area helps to soothe the itch. Even neater: It works not only for those poor souls afflicted by poison ivy, but also anyone bitten by a blood-thirsty mosquito or bed bug.

 

Vodka

According to this article on Living Awareness, one remedy for the agnozing itch is a vodka-based tincture made with two cups of 100 proof of the good stuff, 2 tablespoons manzanita leaf, 2 tablespoons echinacea root and 2 tablespoons of mugwort leaf. Chances are, though, you’re not a student at Hogwarts, you probably don’t have mugwort leaf in your cupboard and you don’t have the three weeks required to let everything steep. If you have vodka in the ole liquor cabinet, though, vodka compresses will help soothe the itch while you enjoy a screwdriver.

 

Aveeno

According to the instrutions on the packaging, to help sooth itchy skin afflicted with poison ivy, soak for 15 to 20 minutes in an Aveeno bath. Simply mix the powder, made from 100% pure colloidal oatmeal, in water and ease into the milky bath. If you have the regular Quaker oats on hand, you can make some oatmeal, let it cool and apply the paste directly on the affected area.

 

Tecnu

Some of the been-there, done-thats who have dealt with a mean case of poison ivy swear by this stuff. There is soap, gel, skin cleanser and even a scrub. Let your skin heal before you start scrubbing, though. Hey, it goes without saying that you should not be scratching, right? You make it worse because when you scratch, you spread the oils that are making you itch and contaminating more of your skin. Stop that.

 

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is pretty brilliant. It has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a popular natural remedy for all sorts of issues. In fact, women who have painful menstrual cramps can drink a nice cup or two, and anyone who’s ever had wisdom teeth pulled can attest to how puffy one can get. Biting down on not-too-hot chamomile bags helps take that swelling down. To address your itchy skin, however, you’ll need to make an extra-large cup of tea in your bathtub. Throw at least a dozen chamomile tea bags into a bathtub filled with hot water. Let that water get warm. Get in, and don’t drink it.

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