Home Remedies for Poison Ivy

If your skin touches poison ivy or another plant in the same family, such as poison oak or poison sumac, you may develop a skin rash. The rash occurs as a reaction to urushiol, the oily resin found in the sap of the plant.

Urushiol can also linger on clothing, firewood, or a pet's fur and then transfer to your skin.

Poison Ivy
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The rash it causes (rhus dermatitis or Toxicodendron dermatitis) is red, itchy, and often marked by red bumps, blisters, and swelling. It can pop up anywhere from four hours to 10 days after exposure and last one to four weeks.

While the rash itself isn't contagious, if it is not thoroughly washed off, contact with urushiol can spread the resin to someone else. It can also spread to other parts of your body.

This article explains what to do if you come in contact with poison ivy and offers some common home remedies that may offer itch relief.

First Steps

If you come in contact with poison ivy, you should take some basic steps to contain and remove the urushiol right away:

  • Clean the affected areas: You can use rubbing alcohol, dish detergent, or soap and plenty of cool water immediately after exposure. This can help control a poison ivy reaction.
  • Apply a barrier: An over-the-counter (OTC) barrier cream made with bentoquatam (known to shield the skin against poison ivy) can also offer protection.
  • Wash clothing and pets: You should wash any contaminated items or clothing with soap or detergent. Also, be sure to bathe your pets to get any urushiol out of their fur.

After that, you'll undoubtedly want to explore some solutions to help relieve the itching and redness.

Home remedies like those described below may help soothe mild cases. Though there is little research to support their use, some people try them with success.

That said, it's always wise to consult your healthcare provider about any skin rash before self-treating.

If your case is severe, see your healthcare provider. You may need a corticosteroid prescription.

When to Get Immediate Attention

If you notice any of the following, seek emergency care:

  • Fever higher than 100 degrees F
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Many blisters or blisters oozing yellow fluid
  • Rash that covers large areas
  • Irritation in sensitive areas like eyes and mouth

Menthol Cream or Lotion

Menthol has a cooling effect on skin and is a counter-irritant—a substance that distracts from the itch. It is an organic compound sourced from peppermint and other mint plants. It can also be made synthetically.

Some OTC products like Gold Bond Medicated Anti-Itch Lotion contain menthol. You can also find menthol in peppermint essential oil. However, you must always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil so they are safe for use on irritated skin.

Colloidal Oatmeal

Soaking in a warm (but not hot) bath with colloidal oatmeal for 10 minutes or longer may help soothe skin itching.

Made from finely ground oats, colloidal oatmeal doesn't sink to the bottom of the bath. Instead, it disperses throughout the water, coating skin and temporarily relieving the itch.

Colloidal bath treatments and other oatmeal products are available at drugstores. One such example is Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is made from the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis virginiana plant. Witch hazel contains tannins, compounds that can help reduce swelling and fight infection.

You can apply the liquid to your skin with a cotton ball to reduce itching and swelling. Place the witch hazel in the refrigerator ahead of time for an added cooling effect.

Witch hazel is one of the few plants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for OTC use.

Cool Compresses

Applying a cool compress to affected skin can soothe itchiness.

Soak a clean washcloth in cold water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes.

You can do this several times a day for relief. Alternately, a cool bath may also help.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a home remedy that may offer relief from itching. In addition, it has antibacterial properties, which could help reduce the risk of skin infections that may result from scratching.

Since ACV is acidic, you should be careful when trying it out, especially if your rash contains blisters.

First, dilute the vinegar with a small amount with water, place it on a cotton ball, and dab it on a small patch of skin. If it doesn't irritate your skin and stops the itch, it may be a good option to try.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a succulent plant. When you break it open, you'll find a sticky gel that you can use to treat things like sunburn and other skin rashes—including from poison ivy.

You can remove aloe vera gel directly from an aloe plant. But more often, it is sold in convenient gel and liquid preparations for topical use.

Studies have found that aloe does not speed the healing process. However, aloe has a soothing, cooling effect that may offer temporary relief from burning and itching.

Baking Soda

Baking soda may provide relief from the itchiness that accompanies a poison ivy rash as well. In addition to treatment for poison ivy, it is sometimes used to soothe irritated skin from things like bee stings, dermatitis, and other rashes.

There are two ways you can use it:

  • Baking soda bath: Add about a cup of baking soda to lukewarm or cool water.
  • Baking soda paste: Mix the baking soda with water until it is about the consistency of toothpaste. Then apply the paste directly to the rash.

As with any treatment for irritated skin, always apply a small amount first to test how your skin reacts.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is effective at removing urushiol from your skin. While this remedy may not bring you relief from your symptoms, it can help limit the spread if you use it early after exposure.

Apply rubbing alcohol to the affected area, then rinse thoroughly with water. (This is a good trick for removing urushiol from your shoes, too.)

Summary

Poison ivy produces a rash that can be overwhelmingly itchy. However, at-home treatments can sometimes offer relief.

After you come in contact with the plant, wash the exposed areas thoroughly to remove the urushiol from your skin. You should also wash your clothing and pets.

Home remedies that may, anecdotally, offer relief from itching include menthol, colloidal oatmeal, witch hazel, cold compress, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, and baking soda.

Poison ivy rashes are usually not a medical emergency. However, if you have an extensive rash, oozing blisters, fever, or other signs of a more serious infection, seek medical attention right away.

A Word From Verywell

After you've dealt with a poison ivy rash, one thing is clear: You'll never want to have to do that again.

Be on the lookout for poison ivy whenever you're outdoors. This rhyme can help: Leaves of three, let it be. In other words, steer clear of plants with three leaflets to a stem—a characteristic of several plants, poison ivy being one of them.

Also note that poison ivy may grow as a shrub or climbing vine.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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