10 Best Poison Ivy Remedies That Work Quickly

Even if you’re familiar with identifying poison ivy by its distinctive “leaves of three,” it’s still possible to accidentally come into contact with it without realizing. The consequences often manifest hours or days later in the form of a rash characterized by redness, severe itching, and blistering.

Fortunately, in most cases, you can manage poison ivy rash at home. Here are 10 remedies recommended by dermatologists to soothe the rash and alleviate itching.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy Rash

When you come into contact with poison ivy, you may experience the following symptoms:

– Redness

– Itching

– Swelling

– Blisters

– Difficulty breathing, if you’ve inhaled the smoke from burning poison ivy

The rash from poison ivy often follows a linear pattern due to direct contact with the plant. However, if you come into contact with urushiol (the irritant oil in poison ivy) through contaminated clothing, pet fur, or by transferring it with your fingers, the rash may spread more widely. Typically, the reaction sets in within 12 to 48 hours after exposure and persists for two to three weeks.

The severity of the rash correlates with the amount of urushiol that comes into contact with your skin.

Natural Remedies for Poison Ivy Rash

A poison ivy rash can be quite uncomfortable, but you can find relief with some simple home remedies. Here’s what you can do:

1. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol effectively removes the urushiol oil, which is the culprit behind the rash. It’s wise to carry alcohol wipes when outdoors, especially when hiking or camping, for immediate application to the affected area.

The FDA recommends using rubbing alcohol or water to treat items that may have come into contact with poison ivy to prevent future reactions.

2. Shower or Bathe

After exposure to poison ivy, it’s crucial to wash the skin and under the fingernails thoroughly with plain soap and lukewarm water to remove the plant oils. Additionally, wash any clothing, garden tools, or pets that may have been in contact with the plant.

Wearing rubber gloves while washing these items is advisable. Taking cool showers while dealing with the rash can also offer ongoing relief.

3. Cold Compress

Applying cool, wet compresses can help alleviate itching and inflammation associated with the rash. To make a compress, run a clean washcloth under cold water, wring out excess water, and apply it to the affected area. You can repeat this process as needed.

Some individuals find relief by soaking the cloth in an astringent liquid like aluminum acetate, which can further reduce swelling and itching. Soaking the rash in cool water may also provide relief.

4. Avoid Scratching

Scratching the affected skin can rupture blisters and introduce bacteria, leading to infection. Fingernails, if not cleaned, may contain traces of urushiol, worsening the rash when scratched.

5. Topical Treatments

Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams are effective in reducing itching and swelling. Products containing zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, zinc oxide, or calamine can also help with oozing and weeping. Follow the instructions on the label when applying these products.

6. Oral Antihistamines

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and other oral antihistamines can alleviate inflammation, itching, and rash. However, consult a pharmacist for suitable options, as some may cause drowsiness. The American Academy of Dermatology advises against using topical antihistamine cream, as it may worsen itching.

7. Oatmeal Bath

Oatmeal possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for various skin conditions. Adding oatmeal to lukewarm bathwater or applying colloidal oatmeal directly to the rash can provide relief from poison ivy rash symptoms.

8. Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay, a natural substance found in various beauty and personal care products, has shown promise in providing relief from poison ivy rashes. Applying a paste of bentonite clay and water to the affected area has been reported to alleviate symptoms.

Studies indicate that a modified form of bentonite clay, known as quaternium-18 bentonite, may be effective in preventing or managing contact dermatitis caused by poison ivy and poison oak.

9. Baking Soda

Commonly known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda serves not only as a staple in baking but also as a versatile home remedy. It can be used as a natural cleaning agent and has been touted for its therapeutic benefits.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends adding a cup of baking soda to running bathwater for soothing relief.

10. Prescription Steroids

Prescription steroid medications, such as prednisone, play a crucial role in alleviating severe itching and inflammation associated with poison ivy rash. Unlike over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, these steroids require a doctor’s prescription and come in various forms, including creams, gels, ointments, tablets, and injections.

In cases where scratching leads to infection, antibiotics may also be necessary.

When to Consult a Doctor

While many cases of poison ivy rash resolve on their own, medical attention may be warranted under certain circumstances:

– The rash covers 25% or more of the body.

– Symptoms are severe.

– There are signs of tenderness, pus, or soft yellow scabs.

– Itching disrupts sleep or worsens.

– The rash affects sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth, or genitals.

– Breathing difficulties arise.

– Symptoms persist beyond 7–10 days.

– Fever exceeds 100°F (37.7°C).

Immediate medical help should be sought for breathing problems.

Preventing Poison Ivy Rash

The best defense against a poison ivy rash is knowing how to recognize and avoid the plant. However, if you find yourself in a situation where contact is likely, consider these strategies:

1. Protective Clothing: Wear clothing that covers your skin when you’re in areas where poison ivy grows. When handling or removing the plant, opt for thick gloves to prevent the oil from getting on your skin.

2. Barrier Substances: Applying products like bentoquatam before potential exposure can create a barrier between your skin and the poison ivy oil, reducing the chances of a reaction. Remember to wash these substances off promptly if contact occurs.

3. Cleanliness: Wash any items or skin that come into contact with poison ivy thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol to remove the oil.

4. Professional Removal: If poison ivy is present in your garden or property, it’s safest to have it removed professionally. Even contact with the plant’s roots or dead parts can cause a reaction. Never burn poison ivy, as the smoke can trigger severe allergic reactions.

5. Poison Ivy Kit: Keep a kit handy with essentials like rubbing alcohol, water bottles, and soap for immediate treatment in case of exposure. Quick action can help alleviate symptoms and reduce their severity.


A poison ivy rash occurs when the skin comes into contact with urushiol, an oil found in all parts of the plant. This can lead to intense itching and discomfort. Home remedies such as washing with lukewarm water, using cold compresses, and applying rubbing alcohol can provide relief. Over-the-counter medications may also help. If symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to consult a pharmacist or doctor for further treatment.

Poison Ivy Remedies

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