Most of us have experienced a long hike in the woods, or a summer berry picking expedition, or an afternoon in the park with the kids that ended with ultra-itchy, bumpy, swollen red skin for one or more participants, ruining an otherwise fun summer day outside.
If you’ve had poison ivy before and been exposed to it again, you may be in denial, because you know exactly where this is headed. Poison ivy can be severely itchy, and it can last seemingly for ages—but probably for at least weeks and sometimes even months. Those who are hypersensitive to poison ivy may even require steroids and oral antihistamines to get it under control.
Pine tar soap for poison ivy is an age old remedy as it helps to neutralize urushiol, which is the oil in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac that most people have an allergic reaction to.
The first rule of poison ivy is “leaves of three, let them be.” We think the second rule should be: keep some Packer’s Pine Tar Soap on hand for poison ivy emergencies!
How Poison Ivy Gets on You
Poison ivy is a sneaky plant that can hitch a ride on other plants, hiding itself from unsuspecting humans. It can grow as an upright shrub, a low spreading shrub, or as a vine. Its colors can vary, it may or may not have berries depending on the season, and even the leaf shape can be somewhat variable. In other words, it can be easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This means that you can easily walk through it on roadsides or come in contact with it in your garden without being any the wiser—until a few hours or days later when you break out in a significantly itchy rash.
Reactions to urushiol can vary significantly from mild to severe. About 15-25% of the population is unaffected—or more precisely, is not allergic to the resin.
The rest of us will react to poison ivy, and it’s important to keep a close watch on your symptoms. Seek medical attention if you have a fever, have blisters around the eyes or genitals, have trouble sleeping due to the itch, or if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.
Why Poison Ivy Itches
Poison ivy (along with poison oak and poison sumac) contains an oily resin called urushiol on its leaves and in the stems and roots of the plant. It can take up to 48 to 72 hours for your skin to break out in the rash associated with urushiol. If you are allergic to urushiol, you will likely develop red, itchy, raised bumps that can turn into welt-like blisters that weep as the rash progresses. Ultimately, these blisters will crust over and dry out, allowing skin to finally heal.
It is important to keep skin clean and free of dirt and bacteria throughout the duration of the allergic reaction. This is why so many people turn to pine tar soap for poison ivy relief.
Pine Tar Soap for Poison Ivy FAQ
- What should I do once I realize I’ve made contact with poison ivy? Once the itch starts and the rash begins to break out, don’t take a shower! The shower will cause the urushiol to spread to other parts of the body. Instead, clean the affected areas with Packer’s pine tar soap. You may want to use a wet paper towel or old rag that you’ve lathered up with pine tar soap to wash the affected parts of your skin; urushiol can actually remain on surfaces for months or even years, so try to dispose of anything that comes in contact with your skin.
- Can pine tar soap be used for poison ivy along with the drugs my doctor prescribes? Check with your doctor, but pine tar soap should be a good complement for any pharmaceutical interventions that are necessary to control your rash.
- Do pets get itchy from contact with poison ivy? It’s possible but unlikely for a dog or cat to get an itchy rash from poison ivy, as their fur protects their skin from making direct contact with the oil. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a tangle with a poison ivy plant, you can lather her up with pine tar soap as a preventative. Wear gloves so the urushiol doesn’t spread to you. Pets could have a severe allergic reaction from ingesting the plant, but that also is rare. It is also possible that the oil could get onto your dog’s fur, and when you pet her, she could pass the oil to your skin! Bottom line: Try to keep pets away from poison ivy.
- Can I use pine tar soap for my kids’ poison ivy? Yes! All of the information we have points to the fact that pine tar soap can be used with very little risk of reaction in either kids or adults.
- Can pine tar soap be used for poison ivy on my face? How about in my hair? Pine tar soap is considered to be gentle enough for use on facial skin. Of course, we always recommend doing a patch test to head off those rare reactions. While our pine tar soap bar can be used on the scalp,our pine tar shampoo is specially formulated to clean hair gently without stripping or drying action.
- Why are skin infections common in those who have an acute case of poison ivy? It’s true what your mom told you as a kid: scratching only makes the itch worse! The friction caused by scratching stirs up the allergic reaction under the skin, intensifying and prolonging the reaction. Plus, your fingernails can break the skin, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause an infection. One of the best things you can do to promote poison ivy healing is to use anti-itch agents including pine tar soap to give your skin a chance to heal.
Pine Tar Soap’s Anti-Itch Action
Pine tar has been shown to be anti-pruritic—in other words, it helps to de-itch itchy skin conditions. This action has been shown in a wide variety of skin ailments, including eczema, dandruff, bug bites, contact dermatitis, diaper rash, and poison ivy.
Pine tar soap has other qualities that may make it helpful for poison ivy. Many of the components of pine tar have antiseptic qualities that keep skin clean and fresh with every wash. Some people report a “squeaky clean” feeling after washing with pine tar soap. An antimitotic quality has also been observed with the application of pine tar to skin, meaning that it inhibits out of control replication of unhealthy cells and thus promotes a return to smooth, healthy, normal skin.
Another quality that customers say they appreciate about pine tar soap for poison ivy is that it cleans their skin without stripping it. After lathering up affected skin with pine tar soap, most people feel that they are extra clean yet still hydrated.
How to Use Pine Tar Soap for Poison Ivy
At Packer’s Pine, we believe that it is a good idea to use pine tar soap after every outdoor excursion, whether that’s a hike in the woods, an afternoon in the garden, or on a camping trip. And this goes double for kids, some of whom seem to be magnets for poison ivy.
If you know you’ve been exposed to poison ivy, do your absolute best not to touch anything inside your home. Urushiol is a stubborn substance and it can hang around on towels, clothing, rugs, and pretty much every surface you touch. If your clothing has made contact with poison ivy, you may need to wash it several times in hot water to ensure it’s been completely removed—and then run an empty cycle with bleach to prevent the washer from contaminating your clean clothes.
If possible, wash the affected parts of your skin outdoors with pine tar soap. Again, the rule of thumb is to prevent the oil from making contact with anything inside your home. Only when you’ve washed any potentially affected areas of skin repeatedly with pine tar soap should you enter the house to take a shower.
Don’t take our word for it! Keep some Packer’s Pine soap around the house for the next time you and your family are exposed to poison ivy. Pine tar soap for poison ivy may well be the difference between minor irritation and itchy blisters for weeks!