San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance •  107 E. Hopkins St. Suite 121A; San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Loop


Itchy Business, a book review by Dick McBride

“Itchy Business” is the title of a book and program about poison ivy presented at the annual state meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists. Author Amy Martin, a chronic sufferer from this dread affliction, wanted to find out about best practices in dealing with poison ivy and put together the book. Following is a brief description of her book.

Not everyone is sensitive to poison ivy. 15%-20% of the population is not sensitive but 25% are very sensitive with the rest having varying levels of sensitivity.

$11.95 at Amazon, currently not available at the San Marcos Library (ask for it!)

Poison Ivy is NOT a contact dermatitis. It is an immune reaction to the heavy oil Urushiol contained throughout the poison ivy plant. It attaches firmly to skin and initiates an extreme immune reaction if it reaches subcutaneous skin layers. Rubbing itchy skin with vigor helps Urushiol reach these lower levels.

Prevention is always the best treatment of course. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Be observant for PI plants. Don’t bathe before going out to work areas with PI; clean skin with our natural oils removed is more susceptible to Urushiol attachment. High temperatures and sweaty skin and clothes increase the problem as well. Ivy-X gel (by Coretex) is an effective barrier to put on before venturing out to potential PI sites.

Within the first 5 minutes: Gentle skin washing with water is helpful. Don’t rub the site too vigorously to avoid pushing Urushiol deeper. Be careful to not spread Urushiol around on your body and clothing. Nitrile gloves are the ONLY gloves that Urushiol cannot penetrate

Within the first hour: alcohol rubs (at least 70%) are helpful and a strong dishwashing detergent with lots of surfactants (Dawn is best) greatly aids Urushiol removal. Again be as gentle as possible rubbing the area

Within the first day: Commercial solvent-surfactant products such as Technu Outdoor Skin Cleaner (by Tec Labs) are very effective

See a doctor if:

  • you get a rash within a few hours or if the rash affects your eyes, ears, nose or mouth
  • the rash covers more than 10% of your body
  • you develop 100+ degree temperature, get nauseated, get sore joints or chills
After a day you will be in the relief stages: calming the rash, cooling the itch, constricting the blisters, analgesics, healing the skin. There are a number of effective commercial products out there available at pharmacies, outdoor stores and online.

The book is soft cover and relatively inexpensive. There is much more information on prevention, and relief measures. If you are one in the very sensitive population you might want to consider this book.

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