Poison Ivy (& Oak): Home Remedies For Relief

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Contact with poison ivy can trigger an allergic reaction that isn’t a serious risk for most but can be terribly itchy, produce blisters and red, painful swelling. Some react more strongly to it than others with a lucky few not affected by it at all (one can also become desensitized to it over repeated exposures). The plant produces urushiol (a resin or type of oil) and when it comes in contact with skin, the body reacts.

Herbal InfusionHere are few soothing ways to treat the itch and rash along with some tips at the bottom.

*These tips can also be used to treat Poison Oak

First wash the affected area with soap and water to remove any traces of the urushiol (especially helpful if done within the first 30 minutes of contact). Washing contact area in a heavy salt water or meat tenderizer and water mixture is helpful too.

Once the residue has been washed off, and if done quickly after exposure, you may get lucky and have no reaction at all!

If itching, redness or rash, blistering or painful swelling occurs over the next day or so, try one of these remedies:

  • Baking Soda Bath: Use lots of baking soda and hot water (as hot as you can stand it).
  • Epsom Salt Wrap: To help with itching, dip a clean cloth in a strong solution of Epsom salts & water then cover the affected area with the cloth and bandage.
  • Mint Tea Bath: Either toss a few bags of peppermint tea into a tub of hot water or add handfuls of freshly picked mint, let “steep” for a few minutes before soaking in bath. Can also make a batch of “Tea” by brewing a pot of strong peppermint tea, allow it to cool then soak cloths in tea and apply to affected skin as a cool compress (or just dab with a cotton ball). Regular tea can also be helpful (make it strong and chill first before using).
  • Jewelweed Infusion: Either rub the affected skin with the “sap” from a broken stem of jewelweed or fill a pot with the herb (including stems & flowers), cover with water then bring to a boil. Simmer until it has been reduced by half. Strain, refrigerate and use topically on affected skin. Can also freeze into ice cubes or small packs and use as needed so if you have a bunch growing nearby, stock up on it when it’s in season and prepare a batch to use year round.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar & Oatmeal Bath: Add 1 cup of each to a bath and soak. Can try dabbing apple cider vinegar on rash for relief.
  • Oatmeal Paste: Mix water and oatmeal to make a paste then apply to affected area, allow to dry before reapplying.
  • Mint Lard Salve: Roughly tear a handful of catnip or mint leaves, toss them in a pan and add a half block of lard. Melt over medium heat then reduce to low heat and let slowly cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with lid and allow to cool awhile. While the lard is somewhat warm and still liquid, remove any large bits of the leaves then pour off the lard into a clean glass jar. Allow to set then use as a salve on affected areas.
  • Diaper Rash or Hemorrhoid Ointment: If you’re in a pinch and have one of these on hand, they can help reduce the painful itch and swelling.
  • White Household Vinegar: Either add a few cups to bath water or dab directly onto skin. Can mix with salt before applying.
  • Buttermilk: Add a couple cups to bath water or mix with a bit of sea salt and dab directly onto skin.
  • Honey: Smear over rash area as needed for relief.
  • Banana peel: Rub the inside of the peel over the affected area.
  • Calamine Lotion: Apply generously on skin as often as needed.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Apply over affected area as often as needed.

Identification

StemOld Saying To Identify The Plant:

  • Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, danger in sight.

From Wikipedia:

The leaves are ternate with three almond-shaped leaflets. The berries (actually drupes) are a grayish-white color and are a favorite winter food of some birds.

Tips

  • It can take a day or two after exposure before the rash appears and can last up to two weeks.
  • Did you know: A person who has come in contact with poison ivy can transfer the urushiol to another person or another part of their body. If it’s on a pet’s fur, it can be transferred as well. Do not touch eyes, nose, mouth or any other sensitive areas of the body until the skin has been washed first. The rash or blisters themselves are not contagious (even if oozing), it’s the transferring of the urushiol residue that passes it from one person to another.
  • Some people are highly sensitive to it and a severe allergic reaction can occur, including anaphylactic shock. If victim finds it difficult to breathe, develops a fever, or severe swelling occurs within hours, contact a physician immediately.
  • Remove all clothing items that were worn during the exposure and wash in hot, soapy water.
  • Getting rid of the plant: Wear gloves and cover all exposed skin areas, dig up the plants (roots and all) and dispose of immediately. Pour a strong solution of salt and water or vinegar and water over soil where plants grew (be aware this can affect soil quality for surrounding vegetation). Do not burn the uprooted plants since the urushiol can get in the air and this can be quite dangerous if you breathe it in or gets in the eyes. Wash gardening tools with alcohol and launder gardening clothes immediately.

Note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is simply a collection of information from my notes.

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Published: July 24, 2008
Updated: September 21, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
38 Comments to “Poison Ivy (& Oak): Home Remedies For Relief”
  1. LisaHoo says:

    I just had a MAJOR bout of the stuff and ended up going to the doctor for Prednisone. The nurse-practitioner also recommended Sarna Anti-Itch lotion, which helped the itch the most. It has a menthol fragrance which is kind of strong, but pleasant. And it beats the hell out of Calamine lotion. Yech.

  2. carol says:

    take Benadryl. Relieve the itching inside out.

  3. Shirley says:

    If you have Impatience (plant) around, maserate some of the leaves and rub them on the infected area.

  4. Margaret says:

    Women with insulin issues and/or diabetes should be wary of taking baking soda baths- the baking soda can disrupt the body’s natural pH and cause yeast infections.

    For localized areas of poison ivy, you can use a baking soda paste to help dry out the inflammation.

  5. Donna B says:

    Fels-Naptha soap is an almost instant cure for some people. I have friends in CA that use it all the time. My daughters boyfriend gets it horribly but washes the affected area and it is gone in a very short time.

    • Gretchen says:

      I got poison ivy horribly, until I started to rub Fels-Naptha bar soap on my arms, legs, etc BEFORE going out on the trails.

      • mare r. says:

        Since i hike alot out here in Cali and get it terribly, do I use a film of the soap on BEFORE I go, like you mentioned?

        • Brenda says:

          My husband and I are both HIGHLY allergic. Several years ago he started taking Hyland”s For Leg Cramps, which contains an extract of poison oak. He has not had an outbreak since he started taking it. And he is in the woods a LOT! So…..I started taking it and have not had an allergic reaction since!!

  6. melinda says:

    mix water, salt, and baking soda to a paste and apply. Works Great dries up fast!!

  7. Dave Osborne says:

    put some Whitch- Hazel on a rag and rub like crazy. Just worked for me!

  8. Rebecca Foote says:

    If you know that you have been in contact with poison ivy,use the Fels-Naptha soap to wash it off. It is the only cleanser that prevents it from popping out on you. You may also use the soap as a lather on already bumpped poison ivy. It will dry it out fast.

  9. Pixie says:

    I get it poison ivy,oak,and sumac so bad i look like a mutant and it takes mw months to get over it! I have never found anything that works for me except trips to the doctor daily for treatments. I will God forbid i ever get it again try that soap. Thanks for all your ideas and i will write them down for friends who get it.

  10. Mindi says:

    My son is 9 and is just miserable with poison ivy!! He’s already on oral steroids and I’m giving him Bendadryl. Desperate for something more to try!! I assume you just wash your entire body with the Fels Naphtha?? I do have that at home and witch hazel. Gonna try them both. Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated!! :)

  11. Susie says:

    Dawn dishsoap is an effective degreaser, and can be used also after exposure to the plant oil. Domboro soaks works for me, as well as the salt/baking soda pastes. May have to ask pharmacist for help finding it, and very few carry it (old remedy, nurse practitioner gave me)

  12. judy a says:

    ohhhhhh, thank you all for ur hints on relieving itch!!!!!
    steroid cream doc. gave me does nothing!!!!!
    i will try all these tips + see if i can get relief. i have diabetes + have a hard time healing anything!!!! can’t take steroids by mouth, cause it raises my sugar.
    ok thanks again
    sure hope something works, cause i got i hr. sleep lastnite,ugh

  13. Jodi says:

    Judy, straight tea tree oil dabbed directly on the rash helped me more than anything else. I am one of those individuals who are highly allergic to it, and have required steroids in the past. The last time I got it I was pregnant and was not willing to go the Benadryl and steroid route. I always keep tea tree oil on hand, and just put some on to see what would happen because the itch was driving me crazy. At first, it didn’t seem to help at all, but then, after about a minute, the itch JUST WENT AWAY! It stayed gone for hours, and when it started getting itchy again I just reapplied and went about my business. The rash also went away in under a week, which has never happened to me before. In the past I have suffered for over a month before going on steroids that still took additional weeks to help. I hope you try tea tree oil!
    Also, regarding ticks, pull them out for goodness sake. If you suffocate them or do anything like that to make them pull out on their own, they have to release some of their stomach contents to let go. When they release their stomach contents, they are putting bacterial infections like Lyme disease straight into your blood. I live in an area with tons of ticks, and I have never had a problem with removing the whole thing. People just need to get over their squeamishness and pull those nasty things out asap. Then rip their heads off, wash your hands and the site of the bite, and carry on.

  14. Daphne says:

    Slice a tomato in half and rub on the rash. It was almost completely gone the next day.

  15. Deborah says:

    Scrub infected area and then rub it with a cut tomato. Keeps it from spreading and helps dry it up.

  16. Robert B says:

    When I use to get the rash from poison ivy, I placed the infected area under HOT! water to open the pores. After the severe itch was gone doing this, I immediately poured pure Clorox on the infected area. In 3 days of doing this, it was GONE.

    • annette says:

      ME TOO!
      had an allergist tell me about the hot water, brings the histamine up to the surface, hurts so good. Relief lasts for @ 8 hours. The only way I can get to sleep at night, hot shower, Ibupro and Benedryl. I’m going to try some of these “wraps” afterwards….it’s oozed so bad I had to wrap arms and legs w/ gauze. Keeps people away. ha

  17. Betty says:

    Warning: Poison Oak and Ivy can actually be deadly for some people! If allergic, the reaction time and severity can intensify with each exposure! It has for me! I now react within minutes, not days! I require medical treatment immediately! My doctor warned me last time, next time would be a long hospital stay for sure!! Anyone who reacts to it, has an allergy. People have died from exposure and not getting to the hospital in time!! If you go camping, be careful when grabbing firewood, Firemen who were allergic, have breathed in the smoke from the burning plant, and gotten it on the inside and it has killed them! FYI in case you react to the plants, you need to know there is potential, for it to be a very dangerous situation! Be prepared!!I have heard of using Vaseline or Fels Naptha on exposed areas when walking through possible exposure areas, can help prevent contact, but Washing with Fels Naptha directly after is said to kill anything that would be there! So I keep it in my first aide kit!!

  18. amanda says:

    Where can I buy the Fels Naptha soap at? I’ve never heard of it, and I’m severely allergic to poison Ivy. I already did one round of Medrol, now I’m on another round of Pred. The medrol did NOTHING. It usually helps. This time it’s out of control and spreading again after a week on steroids already. It didn’t spread the first week. Ugh.

    • Clair says:

      You can purchase it in the laundry detergents/soaps area in most grocery stores – I got mine at Walmart. It’s in bars (like handsoap) and is a rectangle shape.

  19. Deborah says:

    My grandchildren battle this every summer. Thank you for the remedies.

  20. Debra says:

    I guess I’m lucky, I have never had poison ivy or poison oak, but a prior husband use to get it and swore to putting clorox bleach on the infected areas would dry it up right away.

  21. Julie says:

    I read somewhere that rinsing immediately after exposure with COLD water will keep the pores closed and will more likely keep the oil from being absorbed. Hot water works great on the rash, though.

  22. Devi says:

    I was told to never use warm water on me- it just opens the pores bigger and allows the poison a wider range. Warning –wash your clothes in hot water and with plenty of soap. One time I got poison oak from a sweater I put on a year later!!!! Whenever I get poison oak I cut my fingernails, so I won’t accidently itch it at night. I am careful not to itch anything (and if I can’t resist I just rub so as to not break the surface of my skin). I easily recognize it on my body and treat it like the plague-sometimes I do put a bandaid on to isolate, but sometimes it causes it to spread under the bandaid, because of the heat. I have gotten a shot and it does make a difference (but there are at least 2 kinds of shots and one does not work on me.

  23. Laurie says:

    I have been suffering for several days, with poison ivy, and I am allergic. Calamine lotion did nothing as the blisters were weeping through it. I tried covering it at night, as not to spread it. I tried a combo of the listed home remedies: first took a Claritin to block histamines, then did the alcohol wash to dry everything out, then tried the baking soda poultice. I felt IMMEDIATE relief with this combo. The baking soda stuff is a mess, but works!!The weeping has mostly stopped, but when it leaks thru, I just add more baking soda. No pain, and NO drugs!! Thanks!!!!!!!

  24. Matthew says:

    I have used the store bought rubbing alcohol 3% on the effected area by pouring directly on the skin. It cools and soothes the skin while drying the skin. It’s one the ingredients in calamine lotion.

  25. Ashley says:

    This may sound crazy, but people where I’m from swear that pouring gasoline over areas affected by poison ivy/ oak is the most effective treatment… My boyfriend is severely allergic (I, thank goodness, do not react) and he is a landscaper (go figure, huh?) Does anyone have any input on this treatment other than that it is insanely dangerous? Does it actually work for anyone or is it in their heads as a macho-man sort of thing? To me it doesn’t seem to work all that well, and if it does work its just because it dries it up some, but I believe there HAVE TO BE better ways to do that. I will surely try to convince him to use the Fels Naptha soap from now on, but I really would like to know if anyone has tried the gasoline and what they think of it. Cause it definitely scares me!!!! Thanks!

  26. Jeanine says:

    My husband uses Tea Tree oil, sometimes he adds it to the lotion he uses, sometimes he uses a cotton ball or “q-tip” to apply the Tea tree oil to the worse spots. He usually uses the Tea Tree oil directly on spots that are openly weeping (yes, it gets really bad for him sometimes!) It stops the weeping within a few minutes and he sees noticable improvement of the rest of he rash within hours.

  27. Pat says:

    First time getting it am miserable. My eyes are almost swelled shut. What can you do for swelling. Cut and pulled at with bare hands not knowing what it was Must have rubbed my face and eyes with hand. Was really hot out. Eyes are the worst

  28. Squatch says:

    Got the stuff on my feet through my boot. It’s in between my toes. Crying about it and drinking lots of whiskey seems to work for me.

  29. Pamela says:

    Zanfel – at most drugstores – is the only thing other that prednisone that really really works. I have learned that the hardest and most expensive way. It really really works – I absolutely swear to it.

  30. Lisa says:

    I get it bad. Plain yogurt smoothed all over the rash seems to dry it out for me!


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