Ten best home remedies for poison ivy

While poison ivy rash eventually clears up on its own, the itching associated with the rash can be difficult to bear, and can even impact on sleep.

The following poison ivy remedies may provide relief from symptoms:

1. Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can remove the urushiol oil from the skin, helping to minimize discomfort.

People should do this as soon as possible after contact with poison ivy, particularly within the first 10 minutes of exposure. If going camping or hiking, it is a good idea to carry alcohol wipes at all times.

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise that urushiol can remain on the surface of most items that come into contact with poison ivy, sometimes for years, unless treated with rubbing alcohol or water.

Rubbing alcohol is available for purchase online.

2. Shower or bathe

Thoroughly wash the skin, and under the fingernails, with plain soap and lukewarm water to remove plant oils. Water can be used instead of rubbing alcohol, although it is best to use alcohol first and then shower or bathe.

It’s believed that showering within 60 minutes of exposure may help limit the spread and severity of the rash.

Wash anything that comes into contact with the plant. People should wear rubber gloves when doing this.

3. Cold compress

Cool, wet compresses can help to reduce itching and inflammation.

To make a compress, run a clean washcloth under cold water. Wring off excess water. Apply to the skin for 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat this several times a day as needed.

Some people find relief by soaking the compress in an astringent liquid to further reduce swelling and itching. Examples of astringent liquids include aluminum acetate, apple cider vinegar, and chilled black tea.

4. Resist scratching the skin

Scratching the skin can lead to an infection. It may also cause blisters to burst, which may then become infected.

Blisters that do open should be left alone, as the skin covering the wound can provide protection and reduce the risk of infection.

Unscrubbed fingernails may also contain traces of urushiol, which can be transmitted to the skin through scratching. This can lead to further itching and a more severe poison ivy rash.

5. Topical lotions and creams

Share on PinterestOver-the-counter creams and lotions may help to relieve the symptoms of a poison ivy rash.

Several lotions that can help relieve the symptoms of a mild poison ivy rash are available without a prescription.

Hydrocortisone creams and calamine lotion are two products commonly used to reduce itching and swelling.

The FDA advise that products containing zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, and zinc oxide treat the oozing and weeping caused by poison ivy. Users should always apply these products as per the instructions on the label.

Aloe vera gel, taken from the aloe vera plant, is another soothing topical poison ivy remedy.

6. Oral antihistamines

Oral antihistamines lessen the severity of allergic reactions, thereby reducing itching and rash. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is one example that may also help some people sleep better through their symptoms.

It is not advisable to apply antihistamine cream to the rash, as it may make itching worse.

7. Oatmeal bath

According to research, oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that benefit a variety of inflammatory skin conditions.

Adding oatmeal or an oatmeal-based product to a lukewarm bath is a simple poison ivy remedy. Soaking in the tub for up to 30 minutes may provide symptom relief.

8. Bentonite clay

Bentonite clay is a popular natural clay used in a variety of beauty and personal care products.

Some people report relief from poison ivy rash after applying a paste of bentonite clay and water to the affected area.

Research suggests that using a modified version of bentonite clay (quaternium-18 bentonite) effectively prevents or reduces the allergic contact dermatitis caused by poison ivy and poison oak.

9. Baking soda

Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a salt that is mainly used in baking. However, it is also used as a natural cleaning agent and as a home remedy for various ailments.

Adding a cup of baking soda to the tub is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology for relief from poison ivy rash.

10. Medication

In addition to natural and home-based poison ivy remedies, medications are available to offer symptom relief. Steroid drugs, such as prednisone, can be prescribed by a doctor to ease itching and inflammation.

These steroid medications come in a variety of forms including:

  • creams
  • gels
  • injections
  • lotions
  • tablets

Antibiotics may sometimes be necessary if an infection develops due to scratching the skin or picking at blisters.

Brush up against poison ivy leaves, and almost 90% of adults will develop an angry, red rash. Unsuspecting hikers, gardeners and campers regularly come across the plant in warmer months, but it’s also possible to encounter the toxin indirectly, like via your dog’s fur.

Growing as both a shrub and a vine, the innocuous-looking flora produces a noxious sap responsible for the reaction, called allergic contact dermatitis. Both poison ivy and oak sprout leaves with three leaflets, and sometimes include berries.

Urushiol — the clear liquid on top — can cause a painful and irritating rash on your skin, including oozing blisters. The violent outbreak may appear as long as three days after exposure, according Dr. Rajani Katta, M.D., a dermatologist based in Bellaire, Texas, who specializes in contact dermatitis.

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Attack the rash at first sign with a steroid cream like hydrocortisone. “Steroids target the immune system’s response in the skin and shut off the molecules that trigger inflammation,” Katta says.

For itch relief, don’t discount an old-fashioned oatmeal bath. While it won’t reduce redness, a long soak can reduce the urge to scratch. “Substances in the oatmeal bind to the skin and form a protective barrier,” Katta explains. “They also hold moisture in and provide a soothing effect.”

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If the rash doesn’t subside within a few days — or it covers your entire body — skip over-the-counter cream entirely and head straight to the doctor. Severe cases require immediate medical attention and prescription-strength hydrocortisone to calm the reaction.

A growing breakout, however, doesn’t mean you’re contagious. Lingering oils cause the blisters to “spread” to new places, or even other people. Urushiol remains potent for weeks at a time, so you should always wash your skin with soap and water immediately after coming into contact with it.

Don’t neglect other surfaces too. Start by cleaning your gardening tools, steering wheel, carpet or wherever else the residue might hide. And yes, that includes giving your dog a bath too!

Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.

Poison Ivy Rash in Children

What is poison ivy rash?

Poison ivy rash is an allergic reaction to poison ivy. Poison ivy is very common plant in the U.S. It is similar to two other plants called poison oak and poison sumac. The plants cause allergic dermatitis. This means the body’s immune system releases certain chemicals that cause a skin reaction. Most children are allergic to poison ivy.

What causes poison ivy rash in a child?

Poison ivy has oil called urushiol. This oil causes the allergic skin reaction. The oil is easily wiped from the plants to other objects. These include clothes, toys, and pets. Smoke from a burning plant can also contain the oil.

Which children are at risk for poison ivy rash?

Children who live near the plants are at risk for the skin reaction. There are different types of these plants around the country. They are:

  • Poison ivy. This is a ground or climbing vine with leaves grouped in threes in most of the U.S. Another type grows as a shrub in the Western U.S.
  • Poison oak. This is a ground or climbing vine or shrub with leaves grouped in threes. One type grows on the West coast and another type grows mostly in the Southeast.
  • Poison sumac. This is a shrub or small tree with groups of several leaves arranged in pairs. It grows in very wet areas.

What are the symptoms of poison ivy rash in a child?

Your child may have symptoms within hours or days after coming in contact with poison ivy. The symptoms include:

  • Small bumps where the plant oil touched the skin that quickly turn into blisters
  • Severe itching
  • Redness and swelling
  • Blisters that break, ooze fluid, and crust over. The fluid in the blisters doesn’t spread the rash.

The symptoms of poison ivy rash can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is poison ivy rash diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam.

How is poison ivy rash treated in a child?

Your child’s rash may be treated with over-the counter medicines. You can also help ease your child’s symptoms with the following:

  • Bathing your child in water with colloidal oatmeal
  • Applying cool, wet cloths (compresses)
  • Using calamine lotion or corticosteroid cream on the skin
  • Giving your child diphenhydramine liquid by mouth, if itching is making it hard for your child to sleep

Call the healthcare provider if your child:

  • Inhaled smoke from a burning poison ivy plant
  • Has the rash on his or her face
  • Has a severe rash
  • Has a rash on a large part of his or her body

In these cases, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe a prescription medicine such as:

  • Corticosteroid cream
  • Corticosteroid pills or liquid
  • Corticosteroid shot (injection)

What are the possible complications of poison ivy rash in a child?

The rash may become infected with bacteria.

What can I do to prevent poison ivy rash in my child?

A poison ivy rash can be prevented by avoiding contact with the plant. Creams containing bentoquatum may be used as a barrier on the skin if contact with the plant is likely.

The rash can’t spread from one person to another. But oil on your child’s skin can spread to another person who may then get the rash. To help prevent a poison ivy rash:

  • Teach all family members to recognize the plants and stay away from them.
  • Make sure your child wears pants, long sleeves, and shoes and socks when in areas where the plants grow.
  • Wash your child’s clothes and shoes right after he or she has been in areas where the plants grow.
  • Make sure your child doesn’t touch a pet that might have been in contact with the plants. Wash your pet after is has contact with the plant.
  • Make sure your child showers or bathes with soap and warm water if he or she has been in an area where the plants grow. To remove all plant oil, help your child wash all areas of his or her body very well.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Symptoms not relieved by over-the-counter medicine
  • Rash on his or her face
  • Severe rash
  • Rash that covers a lot of your child’s body
  • Signs of a skin infection, such as increased redness, warmth, swelling, or fluid

Key points about poison ivy rash in children

  • Poison ivy, oak, and sumac cause an allergic skin reaction. The reaction is caused by oil from the plant.
  • Avoiding contact with the poison ivy plant is the best prevention.
  • Washing the skin after touching the plant can prevent a rash.
  • The fluid from the blisters doesn’t make poison ivy spread. But oil on the skin can cause a rash if wiped on another person.
  • In most cases, poison ivy rash can be treated at home.
  • A poison ivy rash may be treated with soothing products, calamine lotion, or corticosteroids creams, pills, liquids, or injections.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac: How to treat the rash

Tips for treating poison ivy

A rash from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac is caused by an oil found in these plants called urushiol. When this oil touches your skin, it often causes an itchy, blistering rash. Most people can safely treat the rash at home.


If you have any of the following, go to the emergency room immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

  • A rash around one or both eyes, your mouth, or on your genitals

  • Swelling on your face, especially if an eye swells shut

  • Itching that worsens or makes it impossible to sleep

  • Rashes on most of your body

  • A fever

These are signs of a severe reaction that require immediate medical care.

You can treat the rash at home if you:

  • Have a mild rash

  • Developed a rash on a small section of skin

  • Are certain that the rash is due to poison ivy, oak, or sumac

To treat a mild rash and help stop the itch, dermatologists recommend the following:

To treat the rash

  • Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. If not washed off, the oil can spread from person to person and to other areas of your body.

  • Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.

    To avoid getting oil from the plant on your skin, wear gloves while touching your clothes, even when taking off your clothes.

  • Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, oak, and sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to rinse your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.

    To avoid getting any oil from the plant on your skin, wear gloves while touching or washing anything that may have oil on it. This includes your pet. If you need to wash your pet, wear gloves.

  • Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.

  • Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.

What can relieve the itch?

  • Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.

  • Use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Calamine lotion can reduce the itch. If you have a mild case, a hydrocortisone cream or lotion is another treatment that can alleviate the itch.

  • Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.

  • Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching. You should not apply an antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.

If your rash is not improving after 7 to 10 days, or you think your rash may be infected, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat your rash and any infection and help relieve the itch.

Dermatologists emphasize that you only treat the rash if you’re absolutely certain that poison ivy, oak, or sumac caused it. If you’ve never had a poison ivy rash, see a doctor for a diagnosis.

You’ll find pictures of what the rash can look like at: Poison ivy, oak, or sumac: What does the rash looks like?

Home Remedies for Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac

Even though your rash can go away on its own in 1 to 3 weeks, your skin will feel better if you take some steps at home.

To help with oozing problems, try over-the-counter creams or lotions that you put on the rash, such as:

  • Calamine lotion
  • Zinc carbonate
  • Zinc oxide

For itchiness, apply baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to your skin. And for an oozing rash, give aluminum acetate a try.

You can also get relief from a steroid cream if you use it during the first few days after you get a rash. But experts say over-the-counter steroids, such as 1% hydrocortisone, may not be strong enough to do the job. Your doctor may need to prescribe a stronger version.

Some folks take antihistamines, but they won’t make your itchiness go away. Antihistamines that make you feel sleepy, though, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can help you take your mind off the itchy feeling when you go to bed.

Your skin will feel better if you soak in a bathtub with cool water and an oatmeal-based bath product. Or place a cool, wet compress on the rash for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, a few times a day.

There are a few things to avoid. As tough as it is to resist, don’t scratch the blisters. Bacteria on your hands can get into the blisters and lead to an infection.

Also, some creams or ointments can make your rash worse. Don’t use any of these:

  • Antihistamine creams or lotions
  • Anesthetic creams with benzocaine
  • Antibiotic creams with neomycin or bacitracin

Poison Ivy Home Remedy Relief – LiveHealth Online

Poison ivy is nearly impossible to avoid if you and your kids love the outdoors. You can try at home remedies to treat poison ivy and help ease the pain (and the itch!) with simple ingredients from the garden and pantry.

Make sure that before trying out any of these remedies you first wash the area with soap and water thoroughly, along with any affected clothing.

  1. Cover the rash with a paste made from cold coffee and baking soda. First put about a half a cup baking soda in a bowl and slowly add cool coffee to make a thick paste. Apply the paste to your blisters to remove the poison.
  2. Take a warm bath with oatmeal or Epsom salt. Use about one cup of oatmeal or two cups of Epsom salt in a full bathtub.
  3. Rub a banana peel or a watermelon rind over the rash and don’t rinse it off. Allow it to dry naturally. This will help get relief from the itchiness caused by the rash.
  4. Make a paste from one tablespoon of turmeric root powder with equal parts of lime or lemon juice and apply to the affected area. This spice has great anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  5. Whip a potato into a paste in your blender. Spread it onto your skin and cover with plastic wrap. Potato is an anti-inflammatory, which makes it an effective home remedy to heal poison ivy.

If these homemade remedies aren’t enough and you’re experiencing extreme discomfort or a spreading rash, you can have an online doctor chat using LiveHealth Online.

“Leaves of three – let it be!” aptly describes this woody vine with 2-4″ leaflets in groups of three. The center leaf has a longer stem than the other two. Poison ivy clings to tree trunks and other vertical surfaces with hair-like aerial rootlets that grow out of the stem. If a climbing surface isn’t available, poison ivy will grow as a free standing shrub. The leaves of poison ivy turn shades of red and purple in fall.

Poison ivy is caused by an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis) to the oily coating that covers of these plants. The resinous coating is called “urushiol”. These are called Rhus plants after the old scientific name (it was changed to toxidendron). A person doesn’t have to come in direct contact with the leaves, roots, or branches of Rhus plants to get the rash. One can get it from contaminated clothing. Even in winter the leafless stems and vines can cause the familiar skin rash.

No one is born with sensitivity to Poison ivy, but if exposed enough most people become sensitized at some time and remain allergic. A sensitivity can change at any time. There’s no way to desensitize people allergic to Rhus plants. Dogs and other animals are not affected by poison ivy, but people can get the rash by petting a dog that’s been exposed.

The rash itself is not contagious, and the fluid in the blisters does not spread the rash. Poison ivy dermatitis appears as soon as four hours or as long as 10 days after the exposure, depending on individual sensitivity and the amount exposure. As the rash appears, any sensitivity a person had begins to increase. One starts to react to the slightest traces of a few molecules on the skin. This causes the rash to appear to be spreading, even after treatment has begun.

Poison ivy dermatitis rashes are self-limited; sooner or later they clear up without treatment. Letting nature take its course with mild poison ivy dermatitis is reasonable, but severe rashes need treatment to ease the misery and disability they cause. The very first time this rash is gotten, it lasts longer than a repeat attack, often 3 or 4 weeks.

Cortisone type preparations taken by mouth are dramatically effective in treating Poison ivy dermatitis rash. It’s safe to take these drugs for a short period (2-3 weeks). If a person has a peptic ulcer, high blood pressure, or diabetes, cortisone should be taken only under close medical supervision. Improvement of the rash should be prompt and steady. It depends on getting enough cortisone.

Blisters and itching will improve with moist compresses. Make a batch of “Burows solution” by putting 1 or 2 “Dome-Boro” tablets in a pint of water (available from a pharmacist). Apply this to the blistering areas for 20 minutes two or three times daily. Follow the compresses with the prescribed cream if any. Very hot water stops the itch, but is not good for the skin or the rash.

When the swelling has gone down, stop the compresses and apply only the cream. Cream applied before the blisters and swelling go down are not effective alone. One may bathe or shower as usual, but avoid hot water.

Poison Ivy can be partially prevented by application of “Ivy Block” lotion before going in the woods, and washing off an exposed area with “Technu” liquid as soon as exposure is detected. In the woods, rub the Jewelweed plant on exposed skin. The tannins in this plant may bind the resin and prevent the rash. This does no harm, but is only effective within 15 minutes of exposure. Clothing, pets, and tools need to be washed or one may become re-exposed to the resin.

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The medical information provided in this site is for educational purposes only and is the property of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice and shall not create a physician – patient relationship. If you have a specific question or concern about a skin lesion or disease, please consult a dermatologist. Any use, re-creation, dissemination, forwarding or copying of this information is strictly prohibited unless expressed written permission is given by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

With summer just around the corner, it is important to know how to treat poison ivy and poison oak rashes. The best prevention is to teach your children how to recognize poisonous plants and stay away from them. The American Academy of Dermatology and American Academy of Pediatrics offer information on how to identify these plants and treat a rash if one occurs.

About five to 10 percent of people are not allergic to poison ivy and will never get a rash from poison ivy. Many other people mistakenly believe that they are not allergic to poison ivy because they have not yet had a noticeable reaction, such as a rash. The explanation is that people rarely develop a rash or any type of skin reaction the first time they encounter poison ivy, however, most people will break out in a rash after subsequent exposure. The urushiol oil contained in the leaves and stems of poison ivy and poison oak causes the rash. It may be carried by pets or clothing that were exposed. If a rash develops, it usually appears in one to four days after exposure and should heal in two to three weeks. The rash will often form in streaks on exposed skin, a result of the individual brushing through the plants.

The mildest form of rash caused by these plants often consists of small, red, itchy bumps that can resemble hives. It is more common to develop clusters of small blisters, usually with clear fluid, that can sometimes join together to form larger blisters. If your child gets poison ivy on his or her eyelids, the eyelids will become red, swollen, and itchy – but the eyeballs themselves should not be affected.

If your child is exposed to poison ivy, start preventive measures by:

  • Gently washing the affected area for several minutes in warm, soapy water. Rinse the soap off thoroughly and dry gently. There is no need to scrub the skin harshly.
  • Wash all clothes, shoes, and pets that may have come in contact with the plant; the oil can spread from clothes to other surfaces easily and quickly.

If your child does develop a poison ivy rash, start treatment at home with these tips:

  • Apply calamine lotion three to four times a day to help calm the itch. Avoid topical antihistamine and benzocaine anesthetic creams as these may cause another allergic rash on top of the poison ivy.
  • Decrease the inflammation by applying a one percent hydrocortisone cream to the affected area.
  • Drawing a cold bath or an oatmeal bath also may help to sooth the rash. Don’t scrub the area with soap because that often makes the skin itchier.
  • Apply a cool, wet compresses (cool water on cloth towels) to soothe the skin and help dry up any oozing areas.
  • Try an oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, to reduce the itch at night.
  • Trimming your child’s nails might prevent scraping the skin and putting it at risk for infection.

Some areas of the body may develop the rash a few days after it first appears on other parts of the body. These delayed rashes start later because they were not exposed to as much of the urushiol oil. Parents should note that the clear fluid that oozes from the blisters does not have any of the oil and cannot cause the rash to spread on you or to anyone else.

When should I take my child to the doctor for poison ivy?

It is possible for a rash to escalate to the point of needing to see a doctor. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should call your child’s doctor:

  • If the rash does not respond to the previous methods of treatment
  • Severe rash on the face
  • Fever
  • Signs of infection such as oozing
  • The itch prevents your child from sleeping at night
  • It hurts to use their hands (or to go to the bathroom) because of the rash
  • The child has had very severe reactions to poison ivy in the past

Prescription treatments usually rely on creams and oral medicines that are in the hydrocortisone family but are much, much stronger than the hydrocortisone 1% cream that you can buy over-the-counter.

If you have more questions on types of rashes or topical treatments, consult your child’s pediatrician.

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Scarring from poison ivy

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