The Best Treatments for Poison Ivy

You would think that a poison ivy rash would be as easy to treat as it is to recognize. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. Choosing the type of steroid to use, as well as the dose to give, is very important in ensuring that your child's poison ivy goes away as quickly as possible.

Poison Ivy growing on the ground
Jennifer Yakey-Ault / Getty Images

Common Treatment Mistakes

Common mistakes that are often made in treating poison ivy include:

  • Mistaking poison ivy for some other rash, such as impetigo, chickenpox, or chiggers
  • Using an over-the-counter-strength topical steroid, which usually isn't strong enough for anything but the mildest cases of poison ivy
  • Using a prescription-strength topical steroid cream or ointment when a child has moderate or severe poison ivy and really needs an oral steroid for symptom relief
  • Taking an oral steroid at too small a dose or for too short a time (such as a prepackaged steroid dose pack); this may help relieve symptoms at first, but they may flare up again after a few days.
  • Only relying on OTC or natural poison ivy "cures" and not visiting your pediatrician
  • Using topical antihistamines or topical anesthetic creams or ointments, which can lead to further irritation and reactions

Even just getting a steroid shot for poison ivy can sometimes be a mistake. While some parents request a steroid shot because they maybe assume it will work faster or is stronger, these types of shots only last for about 24 to 48 hours. That can allow anything but a minor case of poison ivy to flare back up.

The Best Treatments

The best treatments for poison ivy usually include some combination of:

  • Cold, wet compresses with aluminum subacetate (modified Burow's solution) that can be applied to itchy areas of your child's skin for 15 to 30 minutes a few times each day
  • Cool or lukewarm colloidal oatmeal baths
  • Anti-itch creams, such as Calamine Lotion, Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion, Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel with Soothing Aloe Vera, or Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal
  • Oral antihistamines to help control itching, such as Benadryl or Atarax (hydroxyzine), a prescription-strength oral antihistamine
  • Topical steroid creams, including prescription-strength medium- to high-potency steroids
  • Oral steroids, such as Prednisolone (syrup or disintegrating tablets) or Prednisone (pills), that are usually taken twice a day for at least 14 to 21 days, with the dose being tapered over time
  • A steroid shot, Kenalog (triamcinolone acetonide)

Keep in mind that oral steroids and steroid shots are typically reserved for children with moderate to severe poison ivy. These children have a poison ivy rash on several areas of their body, may have swelling of their face, or have an intensely itchy rash.

In addition to treatments from their pediatrician, some parents also try an OTC poison ivy medication, such as Ivarest Medicated Cream, IvyStat, Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub, or Zanfel Wash For Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac.

2 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. Curtis G, Lewis AC. Treatment of severe poison ivy: a randomized, controlled trial of long versus short course oral prednisoneJ Clin Med Res. 2014;6(6):429–434. doi:10.14740/jocmr1855w

  2. Pork L, McGovern T. Patient education: poison ivy (beyond the basics). [internet].

Additional Reading

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.