Trail Running and Poison Ivy - Chi Running

Trail Running and Poison Ivy

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Jun 23rd, 2009, 15 comments

I’ve received a lot of ChiRunning email lately responding to my blogs about trail running. One topic that has popped up more than once is poison ivy, that nasty little plant that loves to make your skin look like an overcooked cheese pizza. I’m highly allergic to it, so I can empathize with all of you out there who spend a good part of your summer running in places other than your favorite trails, because they’re covered with the stuff. I flatly refuse to let a little toxic plant ruin my trail running so I spend a couple of hours a week covered from head to toe, in 80º heat, clearing trails near my home here in Asheville. I’ve never run in a place where poison ivy is the predominant ground cover.

Apart from resorting to clearing trails, I have found a great way to prevent the onset of a rash or to cure an infestation before it grows into a full-blown systemic case (which has happened every summer since I moved here three years ago).

Here’s what I do. When I return from a run where I know I’ve brushed up against poison ivy, I immediately throw all my running clothes in the washing machine with plenty of soap and a small amount of bleach…even my shoes! I then take a shower and pretend that I’m trying to scrub my skin off of my bones, using plenty of soap. I use a soap made from Jewel Weed which is an antidote for poison ivy, but any strong soap will work. Never take a bath after being in poison ivy or if you have an existing rash! Always take a shower.

As soon as I get out of the shower and dry off, the first thing I do is swab my legs with hydrogen peroxide to neutralize any oil residue that might still be on me. So far (knock, knock) I haven’t had a single case of it this year…and I’ve waded through plenty of it!
If I happen to get a rash (it starts of as little blisters on your skin) I immediately reach for the hydrogen peroxide, in which I soak cotton balls, and scrub the little blisters hard enough to break them. Then I repeat the hydrogen peroxide scrub about 4-5 times a day until the rash dries up and goes away. This technique has worked 100% for me and since I discovered it at the end of last summer. Since then I’ve never had a case of poison ivy last for more than about 3 days, which is completely acceptable compared to the usual 3 weeks (after a round of steroids) it used to take to get over it. So, now you don’t have to let a little poison ivy stop your summer trail running fun, you can go running in the hills to your heart’s content.
Happy trail running,



  • running,
  • chirunning,
  • trail running,
  • poison ivy cures,
  • run

15 CommentsLeave a comment below

A foolproof poison ivy prevention method I’ve used for years is Fels-Naptha soap.  This is an old fashioned bar soap that you can find in the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store.  It’s definitely not made from all natural ingredients, but it will totally wash away the oils from the poison ivy plant.  Normally, I try to use all organic and natural body products, but this is my one exception.  Poison ivy is so miserable that I will use this soap on the rare occasion that I feel I’ve been exposed.  It’s worked every time on myself and my children.  Not a trace of poison ivy in years for any of us.

I live in NYC.  Would love to reach you—any chance you plan on holding a workshop in New York?

One year in a martial arts camp I got it all over my legs and lower arms. I discovered by accident , (and have since read about it), that getting in the shower and getting it as hot as you can stand will release all the histamines, (and itch), for hours, along with using peroxide like Danny mentioned, or Technu, (a commercial product that keeps it from spreading it’s much less miserable.

I second the comment about Technu lotion - apply and let it sit for a minute, then wash up as you normally would in the shower. It is easy on skin and I clean tools, clothes and all with the stuff. They make a small packet of the stuff on a handiwipe now too - I carry one in my hydration pack for an opps on the trail. It does not smell nice but it is foolproof.

Agreed, Technu is great.  When you get home, wash immediately with cold water so you don’t open your pores.  Once you’ve had a good scrub and rinse you can go as hot as you want.

Hi Danny…
When I was a kid growing up in N. Va I got poison Ivy all the time, all I had to do was get within 5 feet of it and I’d be covered in calamine for the rest of he summer.
One year the doctor gave me a shot for it and I have not had poison ivy since.

Wonderful!  I am highly allergic to corticosteriods, so I’ve always been treated as HOPELESS when it comes to poison ivy.  This gives me hope for my hikes.  Its the first time I’ve ever heard anyone suggest anything other than bleach or cortisone for poison ivy.

poison-ivy-rash Jul 16th, 2009 11:25am

The poison ivy plant grows with a unique liquid referred to as toxin urushiol oil. This is a liquid that hundreds of individuals are allergic to - which is why when somebody’s skin touches it they will develop a rash that is able to spread throughout their bodies’ and be passed to other people, and induce them to itch.

I grew up in Ohio, where Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are everywhere.  After many years of just suffering through the itching and calamine lotion, I discovered that scrubbing the affected area with any sort of de-greasing soap would pretty much eliminate the rash.

Yes, there will be a ChiRunning workshop taught by me on October 17th in NYC. Please check our website for the exact time and location.

I haven’t gotten poison ivy from running (not much on ivy on the routes I use around here in NJ) but I still got a bad case of poison ivy rash in my backyard a couple days back.  I tried a new product that I found at a local nursery and it has worked well. It is called Releaf The Stuff.  On the box it says that they have a webpage at and an Amazon store. It scrubs like Zanfel (a pretty good but expensive product) but has ingredients that keep the skin from itching afterwards. I used Zanfel in the past but this was cheaper and felt better afterwards. It also had twice as much in the container than Zanfel, and for a lower price.

Rubbing alcohol, if used quickly, neutralizes the oil in poison ivy.  I carry the little alcohol pads that you can buy in drugstores.  I use it as soon as I realize that I have come in contact with poison ivy. It is cheap, easy and has worked every time for me.

Natures poison ivy cure works great takes away the itch right away and heals the rash in a day or two. Can purchase at

Aaron Barkley Sep 4th, 2009 05:20am

This product works really well.  It scrubs and washes away the oil that causes ivy, oak, and sumac rash.  It also has menthol and camphor.  Worked great for me.

Craziest thing I’ve ever seen: there’s a guy in Durham, NC who is all about the outdoors.  He claims that he makes himself immune to poison ivy by eating a leaf of it every day, starting in the early spring before the plant creates its toxic oil.

Yup, I watched him handle a vine, and then eat a poison ivy leaf…in the middle of August.

I don’t know if this will work for anybody else (maybe this individual has an innate natural resistance to poison ivy), and I don’t suggest trying it.  But he claims it works, and I’ve seen him eat a leaf…

Anyway, he’s out on the web—search “Riverdave Durham” and you’ll get him.

What are your thoughts?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Top 100 Runnning Blogs award

Over a million happy runners can't be wrong.

Watch our FREE video series and run easier and better than you ever imagined. Feel the difference in your next run!