Multiple Methods Of Care For Contact With Poison Ivy

Poison ivy may 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 may also become desensitized to it after repeated exposures).

Why does this happen? The plant produces urushiol (a resin or type of oil) and when it touches skin, the body reacts.

Here are a few soothing ways to treat the itch and rash plus some tips at the bottom.

*These remedies are also effective treating Poison Oak

Initial Treatment After Exposure

Dissolve either soap, generous amounts of salt or meat tenderizer in a basin of water then wash the affected area to remove any traces of the urushiol (especially helpful if done within the first 30 minutes of contact).

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

If itching, redness or rash, blistering or painful swelling occurs during the next 48 hours, try one of the following for relief…

Home Remedies For Poison Ivy

  • Baking Soda Bath: Use lots of baking soda and temperature as hot as tolerable.
  • Epsom Wrap: To help ease itching, dip a clean cloth in a strong solution of Epsom salts & water, arrange the cloth over the area and bandage.
  • Mint Tea Bath: Add handfuls of freshly picked mint or a few bags of peppermint tea, let “steep” for a few minutes before submerging body in water to soak. Another remedy is to make a batch of “Tea” by brewing a pot of strong peppermint tea, allow it to cool. Next, soak cloths in tea and apply as a cool compress (alternative: cotton balls to dab). Regular tea can also be helpful (make it strong and chill first before using).
  • Jewelweed Infusion: Harvest the “sap” from a broken stem of jewelweed and spread over affected flesh…Alternative: fill a pot with the herb (including stems & flowers), submerse in water and bring to a boil. Simmer until liquid has been reduced by half. Strain, refrigerate and use topically on the body. Another good idea is to freeze into ice cubes or small packs and use as needed so if you have a bunch growing nearby, stock up on it during harvest season and prepare a batch to use year round.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar & Oatmeal: Add 1 cup of each to a bath and soak. Alternative: Try dabbing apple cider vinegar on outbreak for relief.
  • Oatmeal Paste: Mix water and oatmeal to make a paste, apply to area. Allow to dry before reapplying.
  • Mint Lard Salve: Roughly tear a handful of catnip (alternative: mint leaves), toss into a pan and add a half block of lard. Melt over medium heat then reduce to low and let slowly cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, secure lid and allow to cool for 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.
  • Diaper Rash / Hemorrhoid Ointment: If you have a container of these on hand, they can help reduce the painful itch and swelling.
  • White Household Vinegar: Either add a few cups to bath / dab directly onto skin. Can combine with salt before applying.
  • Buttermilk: Add a couple cups to bath or work in a bit of sea salt and dab directly onto skin.
  • Honey: Smear over irritated location as needed for relief.
  • Banana peel: Rub the inside of the peel over the affected area.
  • Calamine Lotion: Apply generously and as often as needed.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Apply as often as needed.

How To Identify

Old 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.


  • It may take a couple days after exposure before the rash appears and typically lasts 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 own body. If on an animal’s fur, it’s easily transferred as well. Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth, any other sensitive areas 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 may occur, including anaphylactic shock. If victim finds it difficult to breathe, develops a fever, severe swelling occurs within hours, seek medical attention 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 parts of the body so no skin is exposed, dig up the plants (roots and all) and dispose of immediately. Pour a heavy solution of salt (or vinegar) and water on soil where it grew (be aware this affects soil quality for surrounding vegetation). Do not burn the uprooted leaves since the urushiol can contaminate the air and will be quite dangerous if breathed in or touches 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 tips from my notes.

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    • LisaHoo

    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.

      • Sarah Grimes

      Another is Gold Bond Powder, it keeps it dry and from running. Also helps the itch….

      • Beth

      Cascade with bleach, cornstarch works too. Make a paste by mixing cornstarch with water. Helps dry it up.

    • carol

    take Benadryl. Relieve the itching inside out.

    • Shirley

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

    • Margaret

    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.

    • Donna B

    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

      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.

        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

          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!!

            • linda

            What is Hyland’s and where can you purchase it. I too have leg cramps and nothing has really helped.

            • jeff

            Hyland’s leg cramps as a pill or ointment? They sell both. Help?! I get poison ivy / oak 2 to 3 times each year because I am a damned fool and like gardening and nature.

    • melinda

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

    • Dave Osborne

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

    • Rebecca Foote

    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.

    • Pixie

    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.

    • Mindi

    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!! 🙂

      • Darlene in North GA

      No, just wash the affected area, not the whole body!

    • Susie

    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)

    • judy a

    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

    • Jodi

    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.

    • Daphne

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

    • Deborah

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

    • Robert B

    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

      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

    • Betty

    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!!

    • amanda

    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

      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.

    • Deborah

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

    • Debra

    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.

    • Julie

    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.

    • Devi

    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.

    • Laurie

    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!!!!!!!

    • Matthew

    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.

    • Ashley

    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!

    • Jeanine

    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.

    • Pat

    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

    • Squatch

    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.

    • Pamela

    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.

    • Lisa

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

    • Sandy W

    I got into poison ivy over the weekend and despite quick washing with lots of soap several times have started breaking out in random spots. I don’t get much relief with Calamine but seem to have found something much better and REALLY drying – facial mud mask. I happen to have an old tube of Queen Helene’s Mint mud and am really happy with the relief. I am covered in green spots, but it’s no worse than pink ones and I’m not too itchy. It will be great fun at school tomorrow – what a conversation starter! I’ve covered the spots pretty thickly and added bandaids to help keep the sheets clean tonight.

    • Tammy

    CVS sells something behind the pharmacy counter that you can take that helps you build up a resistance to poison ivy. If you know in advance you will be around poison ivy it might be a good idea to start taking this. All you have to do is ask for it.

    • Mary Stinnett

    I am very allergic. Found Tecnu extreme poison ivy and oak scrub and Ivarest paste (Benadryl + calamine?) . They have been a life saver for me this year. I cannot use prednisone. If one has sensitive skin do not wash with bleach – this made my elderly mother very ill – burned her skin.

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