The survivalist’s simple guide to poison ivy: What it is and what to do if you’ve touched it
05/21/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Hiking is usually an invigorating activity that lets you commune with nature. But what do you do if you accidentally touch poison ivy while you're on a hike?

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a plant that can cause various painful side effects when it comes into contact with skin. (h/t

The dangers of poison ivy

Here are several sayings that can help you remember how to avoid poison ivy:

  • "Berries white, run in fright." – In the fall, poison ivy will have white berries. However, the plant doesn't have any berries in winter and spring. Poison ivy has green flowers in the late summer.
  • "Hairy vine, no friend of mine!" – This means poison ivy will sometimes grow as a climbing or trailing vine. In vine form, poison ivy will have fine hairs that help it "climb" trees. These fine hairs may sometimes have a reddish tinge. Do take note that poison ivy can also grow in bush form.
  • "Leaves of three, let it be." – Poison ivy has three leaves that grow off the central vine/or stalk. The first two leaves will alternate, or they won't grow across from one another on the stalk. Meanwhile, the third leaf will grow at the end of a longer individual stem.
  • "Side leaflets like mittens will itch like the dickens." – Poison ivy sometimes has leaves with unmistakable lobes or notches that make them look like mittens.

If you're unlucky enough to touch poison ivy, you'll know that one of its side effects is a nasty, itchy rash. Since the plant causes an open rash, wherever your skin is broken you increase the risk of an infection.


However, not everyone gets poison ivy rash. The plant isn't really toxic, but it produces urushiol, an oil that binds to skin proteins. Most individuals are allergic to urushiol, but a handful of people are not.

If you're allergic to urushiol, the poison ivy rash you experience will be caused by a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that may take about several hours, or even longer than a day, before enough attacking cells are produced to cause the rash.

Even if you're immune to the rash, you can still develop an allergy later on.

Remember that you can get poison ivy rash on areas that don't come into contact with the plant since the oil may spread if you touch your bare skin. Since the oil is stable, it can retain its allergenic properties for several months or even years.

If you get poison ivy rash, wash your clothes thoroughly and sterilize your gear before reusing them. To avoid contact with poison ivy, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when traveling in wooded areas. When gathering wood, wear gloves to avoid any poisonous vines that could be stuck on trees.

If you think you've touched poison ivy, wash the infected area immediately with some soap and water. You can also use a poison ivy scrub to avoid getting a rash. Don't let the oil bind to your skin because it might be harder to remove once you let it sit on your skin.

When you're out camping or hiking, keep an eye out for poison ivy to avoid getting poison ivy rash. When SHTF, you don't need an itchy rash and painful blisters that can slow you down.

Natural remedies for poison ivy rash

The following natural remedies could help soothe poison ivy rash:

  • Aloe vera – Aloe vera can help reduce skin inflammation, itching, and swelling, and can also minimize irritation and pain caused by the rash. Refrigerate the aloe vera before use to enhance its cooling effect.
  • Jewelweed – Jewelweed is a succulent that belongs to the Impatiens family. Crush jewelweed and apply the paste to the rash. This is one of the best treatments for poison ivy rash. (Related: Prepper medicine: 7 natural pain-relieving plants.)
  • Oatmeal bath – An oatmeal bath can help soothe skin irritated by poison ivy rash. Just add one cup of oatmeal to a tepid bath. Check the water temperature first before you get in the bath because hot water can make rash blisters burst and spread the infection. You can also use a paste of cooled cooked oatmeal on your skin.
  • Tea tree oil – An effective all-around remedy, tea tree oil can be applied to the skin once the poison ivy rash has stopped oozing. Apply tea tree oil every two hours to stop itching. The essential oil will also dry the blisters and rash. While tea tree is generally safe to apply undiluted to bare skin, you will only need several drops.
  • Witch hazel – Witch hazel tree is an astringent that can soothe and relieve the itchiness caused by a poison ivy rash.

You can read more articles about effective natural remedies for other toxic plants at

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