Home Remedies for Poison Ivy

If your skin touches poison ivy or other plants in the same plant 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 plant.

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

The rash (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 lasts 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.

When you're spending time outdoors, remember the rhyme "leaves of three, let it be." This can help you steer clear of poison ivy plants. With three leaflets to a stem, poison ivy may grow as a shrub or climbing vine.

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

Poison Ivy
Cyndi Monaghan / Getty Images

General Treatment

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

  • Clean the affected areas: You can use rubbing alcohol, dish detergent, or soap and plenty of cool—not hot—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 the oil out of their fur.

The condition is usually mild, though if severe, your healthcare provider may prescribe a corticosteroid.

When To See a Doctor

If you notice any of the following warning signs, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Fever higher than 100 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

In mild cases of poison ivy rash, home remedies may help to relieve the itching and redness.

Although scientific support for natural remedies to treat poison ivy is lacking, here are some of the more common home remedies used to relieve the red, itchy rash.

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.

OTC products like Gold Bond anti-itch lotion contain menthol. You can also find menthol in peppermint essential oil. However, you must always dilute essential oils to a safe amount 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 bath, coating skin and temporarily relieving the itch. Colloidal bath treatments and other oatmeal products are available at the drugstore.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is made from the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis virginiana plant. Witch hazel contains tannins, a chemical that can help reduce swelling and fight infection. In a liquid form, you can apply witch hazel topically to reduce itching and swelling.

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 for 15 to 20 minutes can soothe itchy skin. Soak a clean washcloth in cold water, wring it out, and apply it to itchy skin areas.

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 deter the risk of skin infections.

Since ACV is acidic, you should be careful when trying it out, especially if your rash contains blisters. First, try placing a small, diluted amount on a cotton ball and dabbing 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, it contains a sticky gel that you can use to treat things like sunburn and other skin rashes.

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. In addition to treatment for poison ivy, it is sometimes used for things like bee stings, dermatitis, and other rashes to soothe irritated skin.

You can either use baking soda in a bath or as a paste, applied directly to the skin. To use in the bath, add about a cup of baking soda to lukewarm or cool water.

If you wish to use it as a 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 help with relief, it can help to limit the spread if you use it early after exposure.

Apply rubbing alcohol to the affected area, then rinse thoroughly with water. You can also wipe your shoes with alcohol then rinse them with water.

Summary

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

After you contact 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 offer relief from itching include menthol, colloidal oatmeal, witch hazel, cold compress, ACV, 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

Home remedies may help soothe mild symptoms in some people. However, there is still little research on their effectiveness or safety.

If you develop a skin rash, consult your healthcare provider. Before self-treating with an at-home remedy, be sure to ask your doctor if it is appropriate for your situation.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
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.
  1. Goerlich DL, Latimer JG. Poison Ivy: Leaves of three? Let it be!. Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension. Publication 426-109.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Outsmarting poison ivy and other poisonous plants. Updated Feb. 16, 2021.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Poison plants: posion ivy, poison oak, poison sumac. Updated Aug. 4, 2020.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poisonous plants: recommendation. Updated June 1, 2018.

  5. American College of Dermatology. Poison ivy dermatitis.

  6. Liu B, Jordt SE. Cooling the itch via TRPM8. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2018 Jun 1;138(6):1254-6. doi:10.1016/j.jid.2018.01.020

  7. National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. Safety information.

  8. Abbas TF, Abbas MF, Lafta AJ. Antibacterial activity and medical properties of Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Health. 2020 Jul;23:23-1146. doi:10.36295/ASRO.2020.231146