Contact with Poisonous Plants

Poisonous sumac

The last week has been a painful experience because I came in contact with several poisonous plants.  Normally when we clear land I wear long sleeves, jeans, boots and gloves so there isn’t much of a worry when we’re plowing through the trees.

For whatever reason, I decided to wear short sleeve shirts for a couple days and that decision was a big mistake.

Clearing the Creek Bed

I was clearing and burning in the creek bed using a machete and weed eater to release the mess.  Doesn’t it look nice?  I’m pretty proud of my progress but not thrilled about the skin rash that surfaced later.

There was sumac, poison ivy and oak in the mix, but I wasn’t concerned because I had gloves and I thought I was being careful.  I’ve run into these plants before and was able to detour contact so I’m not sure what happened… Oh yes, I was wearing a short sleeve shirt….

My week of successful clearing followed with days of pain and itching.

Poison Ivy Introduction

Everybody reacts differently to poisonous plants so I went online to do a little research and found this awesome site here.   DIY Natural is a blog and was very helpful in guiding my journey because I didn’t want to go to the Doctor as I knew they would recommend a steroid in the form of a pill or shot and I didn’t want that.

I have fair skin which is about the same as sensitive so the rash traveled fast because I didn’t connect the dots as to why you shouldn’t scratch.

Sumac, poison oak and ivy carry urushiol oil, when wounds are exposed it spreads.  So, as I was scratching I was making things worse…  Oh, so much worse….   I detoured sharing rash images because there’s plenty of photos online referencing poison ivy.

Here’s what I did to stop the itch and begin healing.

  • I tried essential oils, Lavender, T-Tree and Peppermint… They helped for a while but not long enough.
  • Then I tried benedryl and I started to smile again.
  • I found some over the counter lotions that worked for a while but faded quickly… Skip Calamine – it’s not strong enough.
  • I discovered ice packs were a little bit of heaven and offered comfort through the long nights where I’d wake up every 2 hours.
  • Sea salt helps dry out the poison, it burns until you remove it with warm water.  The burn was worth it…
  • Then finally about 5 days later, I tried Baking Soda, everything changed and I began to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Vines in the Ground

My arms are still red, but the bumps are gone, this is progress.  The itch is also weakening and I have to say the entire experience has been physically stressful. Between the lack of sleep and just feeling irritable I was less than pleasant to be around.

Robert was a champ and very understanding, especially the morning I woke up at 4 am and said, “I NEED BENEDRYL…”  This was the morning of our 25th anniversary, on the drive I said, “For better or worse, right?”

Sumac, poison ivy and oak is pretty thick in the over grown areas so it’s crystal clear from here on out I’ll be wearing long sleeve shirts when plowing through as we establish open space.  You can survive contact with poisonous plants but it’s just better to just avoid contact if possible.

Surviving Contact with Poisonous Plants



  1. Patti says:

    Oh no Carole! That’s awful. I remember once many years ago I was collecting wild rosehips in the woods and later that day I had poison all over the side of my face. Not a pretty picture. Just awful and I ended up on prednisone for a few days. Not that I wanted to take a steroid but my eye was affected, and I just couldn’t take it. Good to know what helps for the future and I’m glad you are feeling better.

    1. Carole says:

      I was very tempted to go to the Doctor and was going to is things didn’t improve. The cold packs were a blessing! This was a set back that added icing on the cake for September. It’s been a stressful month and this didn’t help but I did learn a very important lesson.

  2. Linda Longenecker says:

    Do you know what plants they were specifically? My partner and I just experienced a bite of some sort in the EXACT same place on our bodies within one day…..In-between our big toe and the next one over…..It hurt, but then ITCHED SO BAD! I was after help big time! We soaked our feet in Epsom Salts, and hot water……..Then applied Baking Soda with a tad of H2O, like a batch of mud…..Wore bandages over foot to keep it in place, then ice packs, which really helped a LOT! Never did find out what the bug was……Took over one week to totally heal….Foot swelled and turned red, then subsided….OH, but the itching! I can totally relate! We live in Palm springs, California on the desert. Perhaps a small Scorpion? Who knows? So glad your agony is OVER!

    1. Carole says:

      Yes the itching is the worst ever. I’ve been bit by a scorpion too it hurts but I don’t remember any swelling and it last for about 24 hours. The ice packs are an absolute blessing!!

  3. Linda Longenecker says:

    Never mind, I now see what plants they were……Yes, gear up for doing things like this..Long sleeves esp….Then be sure to wash all clothes after and hang in sun……

    1. Carole says:

      Yes washing the clothes and everything I touch, I ended up burning my work gloves…

  4. mickie mclaughlin says:

    Carole….this information will be most useful. I have been “contemplating” attacking the poison ivy that is growing up some areas of my fence….now I know to cover up everything…ha ha What I’d like to know is how to get rid of the stuff for good.
    On a similar note, I got stung three times by wasps this week with my arm swelling up awful and boy did it itch. Would like to know more on treating bee stings. I tried meat tenderizer made into a paste and applied that to the sting areas, but it still took three days for the itching to subside.

    1. Carole says:

      Try the baking soda on those bee stings, my grandma use to do that for me when I was a kid.. I don’t know how to completely get rid of poison ivy yet…. If I figure it out I’ll be sure to share. Been a busy day here we had our shed delivered.

  5. Donna K. says:

    As some who has been exposed to huge amounts of poison ivy due to extensive “field work”-advice- cover up and peel all clothes from the inside out. Never touch the outside of your clothing. Wash all clothes separately in hot water with store brought detergent. Do not get the infected area wet. It will heal faster (people disagree with me on this until they try it).

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing – that’s very helpful and boy do I regret being careless and wearing short sleeves. When it’s hot sometimes you just don’t think clearly.

    2. Carole says:

      I wanted to add I completely agree with you on keeping the infected area dry. The baking soda and sea salt helped speedup the drying process too which was great. Thanks!!

  6. Lynn Spencer says:

    Hey Carole, I am one of the ‘fortunate’ ones who can just walk by poison ivy and break out. In my long journey with poison ivy, one of my go to ‘relief’ remedies is to let the hottest water you can stand pour over your outbreak areas for a minute or so. I am not a dr., but in my laymen’s mind, the hot water seems to bring the histamines to the surface and you’ll get a good period of extended relief. Just an FYI for the next time…

    Take care my friend.


    1. Carole says:

      Yes hot water, I forgot to mention you are so right it’s amazing. I soaked my arms in it after I used the sea salt and baking soda and it was like heaven. I’m moving towards the recovery side and believe long sleeve shirts are now a staple in my wardrobe. Even when it’s 90 plus degrees, not sure how I’ll survive that but thankfully the clearing areas are in the shade. Thanks for sharing.

  7. daisy says:

    Oh, bless your heart. So glad you are on the road to recovery! I will be sure to remember to wear my long sleeves whenever we tackle any clearing here. Thanks for the heads-up. Feel better.

  8. Charlene Dryman says:

    That itch and rash is horrible. I have it on my fence line, neighbor’s side, but I am the only one that works to kill it. One time, long sleeve shirt, gloves, long pants and shoes, I kept a sweat rag with me. I didn’t think much about the rag. I would wipe the sweat off my face then put the towel partway down the front of my pants. The next day at work I noticed my face was all red and getting sore. Then when I came home and took a shower I noticed my belly was all red and full of bumps. I finally realized that my sweat towel had the oil on it from my sweaty face and I was spreading it by putting it down the front of my pants.

    I learned not to do that again. I hope ya’ll are able to get rid of it for good. That is nasty stuff. How in the world do goats eat it and are fine.

    1. Carole says:

      Thank you Charlene for sharing all the comments have been awesome and helpful for other readers because until you come in contact with this plant you just don’t realize how bad it can be. I spread mine as well through sweat… Today I found a thin material long sleeve shirt that I’m hoping will be a good solution until our cooler temperatures arrive. I didn’t realize goats eat it but I do know those animals will eat anything so maybe we need to think about getting a few to help us clear.

  9. I’m a veteran of poison ivy. For the itch I use Gold Bond with Lidocane cream. To get rid of the plants, the most efficient way has been my goats. They love that stuff.

    Sorry you got infected with it. It’s miserable. Hope you’re over the worst now.

    1. Carole says:

      Maria – I’ve been meaning to pop over to your blog and say hello. Life has been a little crazy, we finally sold our farm and we’re currently getting our place ready to move on. That poison ivy is something and I agree miserable. The worst is over and then I had a couple additional break outs because I think I may be scratching in my sleep. At least I’m sleeping again which is a blessing. Thanks for stopping by and I may have to borrow you goats… LOL

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