If there’s anything worse than poison ivy rash, it’s the skin blisters. They are certainly cringe-worthy. What’s more cringe-worthy, however, is popping blisters. Just the idea of it already paints not a pretty sight at all!
But wait…Should anyone pop poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak blisters?
Popping Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac Blisters
Well, if scratching blisters should be avoided, then popping them could be worse. So, no, do not pop blisters!
Blisters are a body’s immune response to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. It is part of the healing process. Some believe that blisters spread infection. They don’t, especially if they’re just minding their own business. It’s our own fingers that are the culprits. Simple scratching can transfer the bacteria from the fingernails into the blisters, causing another infection. Worse, it can lead to blood poisoning.
A blister is a collection of fluid under the skin. The fluid, though, is not and does not have urushiol, which is the oil toxin coming from the poison ivy and its family. Urushiol causes all those nasty, itchy rashes.
So scratching and breaking a blister will not spread urushiol and contaminate others. If urushiol happens to spread, it’s because of the toxin that has already accumulated under the nails in the first place.
Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak Blisters Causes
There are many causes of blisters. These include carbon monoxide poisoning, frostbite, chickenpox, insect bite, jellyfish sting, and folliculitis (occurs when hair follicles are damaged). Of course, not to forget, blisters are common symptoms of allergic reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants that have urushiol.
In the case of poison ivy allergy:
- a person comes in contact with the plant
- a person comes in contact with animals that came in contact with the plant
- a person touches/wears gears/clothes he/she does not know came in contact with the plant prior to use
- a person unintentionally inhales airborne urushiol while the poison ivy is being burned
All these scenarios may cause reactions on people allergic to urushiol, from a few rashes to a full-blown infection. Poison ivy blisters appear a few days after the rashes.
Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Poison Ivy Blisters Treatment
As part of poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy blisters treatment, first, avoid infecting blisters.
- Try not to scratch.
- Cut nails short so as not to cause more irritation (and urushiol transfer).
- Wear gloves at night. One can avoid scratching when awake, but it’s a different story during sleep.
- Cover the affected area loosely with moist gauze or a sterile bandage.
- Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, burst or break, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.
Blisters normally go away without treatment after a while. Nevertheless, here are what to do when there are blisters:
1. Do cold compress.
It decreases the itch and softens the hard crust formed on blisters (and rashes). Compress throughout the day.
Use: paper towels, washcloths, gauze
- Turn on a fan to blow directly on the wet compress.
- Run an ice cube directly onto the skin and blister site.
2. Use topical drying agents.
- Apply oatmeal paste or baking soda paste to the skin and allow to air-dry.
- Apply/take any of the following:
- over-the-counter (OTC) topical corticosteroid preparations
- prescription oral corticosteroids
- skin protectants like zinc acetate/carbonate/oxide
- calamine lotion
- Take cold oatmeal or baking soda baths.
- Use other drying agents like witch hazel and Burrow’s solution.
3. Soak in cool water.
When to See the Doctor
Should the following occur, DO NOT delay going to the doctor:
- Having a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- The appearance of pus and/or soft yellow scabs
- Tenderness on the rashes
- Worse itching
- Swelling of the face and genital area
- The rashes and blisters covering more than one-fourth of the skin area
- Having difficulty in breathing
Do not let things go out of hand. Treat not just the rashes but the blisters immediately. Remember, NO POPPING!
Tips for Prevention
Avoid the plants. The best thing to do to prevent skin reaction like poison ivy rash and blisters is to avoid the plants. Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. If you go hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities, stay away from areas where poison ivy may grow. It is best to stay on a cleared pathway. Pitch your tent in an area free of these poisonous plants.
Wash your skin thoroughly. Within 30 minutes after exposure, use soap and water to gently wash off urushiol from your skin. Scrub under your fingernails too. Use poison ivy cleansers like Zanfel and Tecnu Original. This helps prevent a rash. Even washing after an hour or so can help reduce the severity of the rash and prevent blisters from developing.
Keep pets from running around wooded areas so that the oil irritant in poison ivy doesn’t stick to their fur. Bathe your pets thoroughly if they may have brushed up against poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Wash off urushiol from their coats using pet shampoo and water while wearing gloves. You may also use Tecnu Original poison ivy cleanser to wash off the oil from the fur and skin.
Always wear protective clothing. If you are doing some yard work around your property where poison ivy may grow, protect your skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, boots, and gloves.
Remove poison ivy and other poisonous plants around your home. Get rid of the poison ivy from your yard by using herbicide like Roundup Poison Ivy Killer. It is effective in killing poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak plant including the roots. But read the instruction carefully to avoid accidentally killing the desirable plants.
Clean contaminated objects. Wash clothes exposed to poison ivy using detergent. Handle them carefully so that you don’t transfer the oil irritant to your skin, furniture and other objects. If you are working around your property where poison ivy grows, make sure to clean poison ivy off garden tools and equipment. Also wash poison ivy off gear such as hammock, trekking boots, backpacks, camping gear, rope, hiking stick or trekking poles, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag. Wash them with soap or Tecnu poison ivy cleanser. Since urushiol oil does not evaporate, it can remain on these items for months or even years at a time. Use Tecnu Original to wash off the oil and avoid a poison ivy rash and blisters from secondary contact.