Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller
Summertime, the time to enjoy the great outdoors, but also the time for mosquitoes, ticks, poison ivy, and other nuisances. Consider yourself fortunate if you’ve been able to avoid these, but if you spend any time in wooded areas during warm months, you may expose yourself to one of these. Here are some precautions to prevent or minimize the effects of exposure to them as well as tips for how to treat poison ivy, insect bites, and other skin rashes.
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Avoid Areas Where Poison Ivy or Ticks are Prevalent
This is the surest way to avoid ticks and rashes, but not always the easiest.
If you know you are going out into nature, take necessary precautions. Insect repellant (and you can get organic/ natural ones without the harmful chemicals) will help keep those pests away from you.
Wear light colored clothing so you can see if ticks are on you. During the summer while picking raspberries, I go early and wear pants and long sleeves. This minimizes my exposure to poison ivy (which seems to grow near raspberries). In addition, it’s more difficult for ticks to attach to your skin if you’re covered.
Always check carefully and thoroughly for ticks after being in the great outdoors.
Remove and wash any clothes that have come in contact with poison ivy or other irritating plants to prevent further spreading.
If you’ve been around poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, or think you may have been exposed to any of those irritating plants, wash with cold water and soap as soon as possible. Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol which can cause a painful allergic reaction in the form of an itchy, blistery rash. You can minimize the spreading of this reaction by washing immediately.
So what do you do if, despite all your precautions, you get poison ivy? One of my sons seems to get poison ivy fairly easily, but until this summer, I’ve avoided getting it. Somehow despite all my precautions, I came into contact with poison ivy and didn’t realize it before inadvertently spreading it even further. Over the next few days, a rash spread over both legs.
I tried various different things to ease my discomfort. These are just some things that were helpful (and a few extra tips). I am not a physician, nor can I offer medical advice. You may need to see a doctor, especially if your rash is severe.
These tips are also helpful for insect bites:
1. Avoid Scratching
Yes, it itches, but while scratching is the natural thing to do when you have an itch, you can cause the rash to become more infected or spread if any of the urushiol oil is still present on your skin.
2. Rubbing Alcohol
This can help dry out the blisters and speed the healing process.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
This may help soothe and heal the poison ivy.
4. Salt and Water
Sprinkle some salt in your hand and add a few drops of water. Rub it on the affected area. Something in the salt helps relieve the itch. My children ask me to apply salt on their mosquito bites, and it’s like instant relief. Salt also helps to cleanse the wound.
5. Baking Soda
Make a baking soda paste by combining baking soda with a little water (or even vinegar which will fizzle.) Rub this on the affected area. You can also put baking soda in bath water and soak.
6. Oatmeal Paste
Try cooking oatmeal and making a thick oatmeal paste to apply to the affected area. Of course, allow it to cool first to avoid burning yourself and leave it on your skin until it dries and hardens.
7. Cucumbers and Watermelon Rind
I was amazed at how soothing the watermelon rind felt on my skin.
8. Aloe Vera Gel
Good for more than just sunburn.
9. Hot Water
I know that it might seem strange to run hot water over the poison ivy, but this was one of my favorite remedies. Run your water as hot as you can stand it and then put the affected area under the water—instant relief! I was amazed at how effective this was. It really feels great—like someone is scratching your itch. After doing this, I felt no irritation for a few hours. I would do it before bedtime, and I could sleep without the irritating itch.
10. Natural Oils
I prefer not to use lotions with ingredients I can’t pronounce so I used several different oils to restore my skin. Any one of the following is a great choice, though coconut oil is probably my favorite: calendula oil, argan oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, evening primrose oil.
Be safe while enjoying your summer, and if you find yourself breaking out with a poison ivy rash, try one of the above techniques to relieve your discomfort.
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Copyright © 2013 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.