Mayo Clinic Minute: How to treat poison ivy rash



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How to Treat Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

Three Methods:

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are a great way to ruin a day in the outdoors. Coming in contact with their toxic leaves, stems, and roots can give you an itchy rash that lasts for 1-3 weeks. Although the only way to completely remove the rash is time, there are several means of reducing the pain and itching involved with exposure to poison ivy.

Steps

Taking Immediate Care of Your Skin

  1. Look for a red rash with blisters.A poison ivy rash is an allergic reaction to the oils secreted by the plant. You will have a red rash, swelling and blisters in the area where you contacted the plant.
    • If you inhaled the burning plant, you may also have breathing issues. This is a serious condition. You should take an antihistamine and get emergency medical help.
    • If you suspect you encountered poison ivy, collect a sample in a plastic bag to show your doctor. Be sure to wear gloves when collecting your sample. Do not touch the plant.
  2. Remove and wash your clothes.Take off your clothes and place them in a plastic garbage bag, if possible. Wash your clothes separately from anything else as soon as possible.
  3. Apply rubbing alcohol.You can apply rubbing alcohol to your skin to dissolve the poison ivy or poison oak oils. Because the toxic oil from the plant seeps into your skin gradually, adding rubbing alcohol to the area will prevent the further spread. It won't provide immediate relief, but it will stem the spread. You can also use an over-the-counter cleanser like Tecnu or Zanfel.
    • Only apply the rubbing alcohol in a well-ventilated room, preferably with an open window or vent. The fumes from the rubbing alcohol can make you feel lightheaded.
  4. Rinse the area with cool water.Never use warm or hot water, as this will open your pores and allow more of the toxins to sink in. If you're able, keep the affected area under cold running water for 10-15 minutes. If you're outdoors in the woods when you're exposed to poison ivy or poison oak, then you can rinse your body off in a running stream.
  5. Completely clean the area.Regardless of the location on your body, make sure that it was thoroughly rinsed with water. If you touched the area on your body at all or the poison affected your hands, scrub under your fingernails with a toothbrush in case any oil from the plants was deposited beneath them. Throw the toothbrush away after you're done.
    • Use a dish soap that is used for oil removal to rinse the area of your rash. Because the toxins have been transferred to your skin in the form of an oil, using an oil-obliterating dish soap may help to reduce the spread of the rash. You can use any brand that's labeled for oil-fighting or breaking up oil.
    • If you use a towel to dry yourself after washing the affected area, be sure to wash the towel with the rest of your exposed clothes immediately after use. In some cases, you may have to throw out the towel.
  6. Don't scratch the rash.Even though the rash is not contagious, you could break the skin and allow bacteria to enter the wound. Don't touch or pop any blisters that may form, even if they are weeping. If necessary, cut your nails short and cover the area to keep yourself from scratching it.
  7. Cool off the exposed area.Apply cold compresses or apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure that you don't apply ice directly to your skin; always wrap your ice pack or compress in a towel before application. Also, allow the area to air dry instead of rubbing it with a towel if you get your rash wet.
    • If you need the area to dry faster, it's okay to pat it dry. However, never rub it.

Treating the Itch Caused by the Poison

  1. Apply topical creams or lotions.Calamine lotion, capsaicin cream or hydrocortisone cream can provide some relief from itching. Don't do this immediately after contact with the plant (as rubbing the lotion could spread the oils), but after a few hours or days when the itching feeling begins. Capsaicin cream, usually sold in drugstores labeled for arthritis pain relief, burns a bit at first but suppresses itching for hours.
    • If you're in a hot, outdoor environment, hydrocortisone cream may not work. Try capsaicin cream instead.
  2. Take antihistamines.Antihistamines are medications that treat for allergies, and since poison oak and ivy cause allergic reactions on contact, taking these drugs may offer minor relief. Antihistamines generally offer only mild relief from the symptoms of poison ivy, but if you take oral medications before bedtime, their combination of anti-itch and drowsiness-inducing effects can help you get some rest. Only take these orally, and do not apply the creams to your poison ivy as this can worsen your rash.
  3. Take an oatmeal bath.Use an oatmeal bath product or an aluminum acetate soak. If you need a quick fix without running to the store, blend a cup of oatmeal in a food processor or blender and add it to your warm bathwater. Avoid using water that is very hot, especially right after being exposed to the poison as this will open your pores.
  4. Try an acorn broth.Crack acorns and boil them in water. Strain out the nuts, cool the liquid and apply it to your rash with a cotton pad. Although this method hasn't been studied, it has shown to reduce the itchy feelings of poison ivy rash.
  5. Apply aloe vera.Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant that excretes a cooling gel from its leaves. You can use a real aloe vera plant by snapping off leaves and applying the gel directly to your rash, or use a processed bottled form. If you buy a bottle from the store, make sure that it is at least 95% real aloe vera.
  6. Rinse with apple cider vinegar.Among the many medical treatments apple cider vinegar can be used for, expediting the healing process of poison ivy exposure is one of them. Use a cotton pad to gently apply the vinegar to the area, or rinse it with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water.
  7. Use baking soda.Make a paste consisting of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Apply the paste to your rash to pull the fluid out of the blisters. Leave the baking soda paste to dry, and allow it to crack or flake off. Reapply this paste every few hours for the best results.
    • Keep in mind that baking soda can irritate your skin, especially if you're sensitive to it. It's best to only try this if you know you aren't sensitive to baking soda.
  8. Try using dairy.Use buttermilk or yogurt to apply to your skin, unless you have a dairy allergy. When you apply buttermilk or yogurt to your rash, the proteins will draw out fluid from your blisters.
    • When using yogurt, opt for a plain variety with the fewest additives possible.
  9. Treat your rash with tea.Fill a bathtub with water and add 12 tea bags, such as chamomile tea for its anti-inflammatory properties. Soak in your tea bath for 20 minutes to help reduce the itchiness and uncomfortable feeling. You can also brew very strong tea and dab it onto your rash with a cotton ball every few hours.
  10. Use chilled fruit rinds.Press a cold watermelon rind or banana peel against your rash. The watermelon rind acts as a cold compress, and the juice helps to dry out blisters. On the other hand, using a banana peel helps to cool and soothe the area.
  11. Dab on cold coffee.If you have a bit of leftover dark-brewed coffee, use a cotton pad to dab it onto your rash. You can also brew a fresh cup, but allow the coffee to cool in the fridge before applying it. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Preventing Future Exposure

  1. Learn to identify poison plants.Avoid plants that have the following characteristics:
    • Poison ivyhas 3 shiny green leaves and a red stem. It grows as a vine, typically along riverbanks or lake shores. It can also be found in woods or forests. As a common rule of thumb remember this simple rhyme: "Leaves of three, leave it be."
    • Poison oakgrows as a shrub and has 3 leaves like poison ivy. Poison oak is typically found on the West Coast of the U.S.
    • Poison sumacis a woody shrub with 7 to 13 leaves arranged in pairs. It grows abundantly along the Mississippi River.
  2. Bathe your pets if they have been exposed to the plants.Pets aren't sensitive to poison ivy or poison oak, but if the oils are trapped on their fur, then they could cause an allergic reaction in anyone who pets them. Use pet shampoo and wear rubber gloves while you're giving them a bath.
  3. Bring preventative measures.If you are taking a hike or are camping in an area that grows poison ivy, bring extra bottles of cold water and rubbing alcohol. If you apply both of these immediately after coming in contact, you will greatly decrease the spread and pain associated with exposure.
  4. Dress appropriately when going outdoors.It's especially important if you're going into an area where you think you may find poison ivy or poison oak. Wear long sleeved-shirts, long pants and socks. Make sure that you wear closed-toe shoes, and always bring a spare change of clothes just in case of an accident.

Community Q&A

Search
  • Question
    Does poison oak get hard before it heals?

    Dermatologist
    Dr. Peña-Robichaux is a Board Certified Dermatologist in Texas. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School in 2010.
    Dermatologist
    Expert Answer
    The inflammation from the rash can cause swelling, which can make the skin feel "hard". Also, scratching will cause the skin to thicken and feel "hard". This will resolve once the rash heals. The less you scratch, the faster your skin will heal.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    How long does it take for the rash to show?

    Dermatologist
    Dr. Peña-Robichaux is a Board Certified Dermatologist in Texas. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School in 2010.
    Dermatologist
    Expert Answer
    On average it takes 2 to 4 days for the rash to appear, but it can be longer or shorter depending on your prior exposure.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Do you cover the poison ivy spots with bandaids?

    Registered Nurse
    Jurdy Dugdale is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She received her Nursing License from the Florida Board of Nursing in 1989.
    Registered Nurse
    Expert Answer
    It's best not to use bandaids on poison ivy. Instead, allow the air to circulate around it. Your sores need air to heal.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    What if it gets on your private part?

    Registered Nurse
    Jurdy Dugdale is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She received her Nursing License from the Florida Board of Nursing in 1989.
    Registered Nurse
    Expert Answer
    It's unfortunate when poison ivy gets in a sensitive place! Don't scratch the area. If it appears inflamed or is causing you a lot of discomfort, visit your doctor for treatment.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    What if I have poison ivy on my face near my eyes?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If it causes your face to swell and your eye to shut, seek immediate medical attention. Many of topical remedies should not be used close to your eyes.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Will taking a salt bath help me?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could try, but it would do nothing for the inflammation. It also won't be very soothing. Try a topical cream such as, Caladril or Aloe Vera gel.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    How would I kill the plant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Remove the plant using pruning shears. Be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves. Never burn the plant, as the smoke coming up from the plant can be fatal.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Why do I get a rash when I don't even touch the plant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You might have touched something or someone that came in contact with the plant. Some people are not allergic to poison ivy, but they can still "spread" it.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    How long does it take for the rash to show up after being exposed?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    On average, the rash appears 2-4 days after coming in contact with the plant, but it could come sooner or later depending on your prior exposure.
    Thanks!
  • Question
    Do poison oak rashes get hard before they heal?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This can happen due to inflammation and swelling or if you are scratching the rash a lot. The less you scratch, the faster it will heal. If you're really worried, there's no harm in consulting your physician.
    Thanks!
Unanswered Questions
  • What if my eyes are itching?
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  • If a child gets into poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cut his or her fingernails very short to minimize skin damage from scratching. They can also wear gloves or socks over their hands.
  • Don't skip the step of washing your clothes and tools or bathing your pet. Poison ivy and poison oak resins can stay on objects for up to 5 years, which could cause you to have another allergic reaction when your skin comes into contact with them.
  • Put spray-on deodorant on your arms and legs before going outside. It stops up your pores and the oil of the poison ivy does not get in your skin. Look for one labeled as an antiperspirant.
  • Poison ivy and oak are related to the mango tree. People who have a history of poison ivy or poison oak dermatitis will often develop the same rash on their hands, extremities or corners of their mouth if they are exposed to mango skin or sticky mango sap while picking fruit from a tree or eating it. If you have a history of poison ivy/oak rashes, let someone else pick the mangoes and prepare them so that you can enjoy the flavor without an itchy, weeping red rash.
  • Eliminate poison ivy or poison oak in your yard by digging up small plants or cutting larger plants back to ground level. You can also spray them with herbicides containing glyphosate or triclopyr (not recommended due to dangers of herbicide vapors around pets and children). Make sure that you wear long-sleeved shirts and gloves when you work with poison plants.
  • You can get Oral Ivy at your local drugstore. You put it in water and drink it. It has no taste and works fast. If you use it before exposure it stops the rash. If you have the rash already, it stops the itch and speeds the healing.
  • You can use Caladryl clear for poison ivy.
  • If you are gardening, always remember to wear gardening gloves to prevent any contact with poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
  • Do not soak in tub right after exposure. The oils float on top of the H2O and spread rash. Instead, remove the oils before soaking in a bath.

Warnings

  • If you have a rash in your eyes, mouth, nose or genital area, or if the rash covers more than 1/4 of your body, then you should consult your doctor. Also, see your doctor if the rash doesn't improve in a few days, if it gets worse or if it keeps you awake at night. Your physician may prescribe corticosteroids to help relieve the itching.
  • Never burn poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac to get rid of it. The oil is vaporized and the resins can float downwind in the smoke and can cause severe allergic reactions for anyone who may inhale it. This can cause the rash on lung tissue resulting in respiratory failure in extreme cases. Either way, it's very dangerous.
  • Never go camping without antihistamines, as they can be life saving if you encounter an allergen, such as poison ivy.
  • Call 9-1-1 if you are having difficulty breathing or severe swelling. While you wait for help, take 1-2 antihistamines. If you have been exposed to smoke from burning poison plants, then you should seek emergency care.
  • If you have a fever over 100 F (38 C), if you see yellow scabs or pus, or if you develop tenderness on the rash, then you should see your doctor immediately about the possibility that you may have an infection.

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of How to Treat Poison Ivy and Poison Oak was reviewed by on August 31, 2019.

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Quick Summary

To treat poison ivy and poison oak, take off your clothes and apply rubbingalcohol to your skin to dissolve the oils, then rinse the area with cool water. If you can, keep the affected area under cold running water for 10-15 minutes, then apply a cold compress for an additional 10-15 minutes to soothe the initial irritation. If the area is itchy, apply a topical cream like calamine lotion, capsaicin cream, or hydrocortisone cream, or take an OTC antihistamine.

Success Stories

Alex Stine

Jun 11, 2019

"This article was really helpful. I tried so many different websites and I tried so many different things, but thenI followed these instructions and my poison was gone! I was SO impressed with the results that I couldn't believe it the next day when it was all dried up. Thank you wikiHow! "
Rated this article:

Judy Huber

Aug 2, 2019

"I sought medical attention & the diagnosis was poison ivy. I was placed on a steroid & directed to usecalamine lotion. This article pointed out mistakes I made initially (e.g., took a hot shower), and provided alternatives to calamine lotion to relieve/burning. I'm still in the healing process, very frustrated, but this article convinced me to be patient. Thank you."
Rated this article:

P. K.

May 23, 2019

"After gathering cattle through heavy brush and poison oak, I did all the normal things like the tecnu and alcohol,but by day 2 the itching still started. This article is great because without having to go to the store many options are listed that I can find in my kitchen and use right now! Lots of possible treatments to help get me through this phase. Thank you."
Rated this article:

Holly McBriety

Jul 9, 2019

"My 3 year old granddaughter was exposed to poison ivy and got a nasty rash on her arms and legs. I am using all theinfo I got here. I must say that it is all very helpful. I did give her an oatmeal bath that seemed to take away a lot of the itch."

Alecia L.

Jun 3, 2019

"I knew this just needed a confirmation for my baby niece since I don't recall ever having gotten into poison ivy.My sister, brother, and I have weird allergies, and now she has it. "

Sonia Bryan

May 5, 2019

"Provided needed information and very straight to the point. Easily understandable with several options relating toidentifying, treatments and preventive measures. Thank You!"

Justus Richards

Jun 28, 2019

"This was very easy to read, understand and apply. The illustrations also helped provide the correct amount ofmass to better under the written text. Thank you very much."

J. Walker

Jul 23, 2019

"I thought poison ivy rash could be spread by weeping blisters. Based on this article, not so. That is helpfulinformation for appropriate treatment and bandaging. "
Rated this article:

Gwen Schmitz

Jun 3, 2019

"I am extremely allergic and my Dr. is out, so no predictions! Will definitely try apple cider vinegar and maybe afew of the other ones and hope for the best!"
Rated this article:

Martha Fuzek

Jun 8, 2019

"Very helpful information. I have been a pharmacist for 39 years, so it's good to refresh the mind in order to seeif any more treatments are available."

Anonymous

Nov 4, 2019

"The delayed reaction part helped. I thought my rash was still spreading, even though I had washed with Dawn dishsoap. Must be a delayed reaction."

Ginger Oakes

Sep 1, 2019

"This had the most specific products and suggestions of any site so far. It also helped knowing when it wasappropriate to get medical attention."

Donald Domangue

Jun 20, 2019

"My wife has a recurring bout with this rash from working in the yard and weeding flower beds. This has reallyhelped to know what to do. Thanks."

Michelle N.

Aug 11, 2019

"I was researching using capsaicin on a poison oak rash because I had never heard of that relief method yet. Poisonoak, that plant loves me."
Rated this article:

Ed Evans

Jul 17, 2019

"This article gave a great overview from beginning to end. Also, it suggested circle remedies that were helpful."

Gayle Landis

Jul 9, 2019

"I have been affected with poison Ivy, oak or whatever for years. This article gave me more info than I knew. "
Rated this article:

Deborah Levine

May 31, 2019

"Great article. I used rubbing alcohol and Dawn and have stopped getting bad poison ivy. Thanks!"

Anonymous

Sep 15, 2019

"Thanks for the help. I currently have a severe case of poison oak and this was very helpful."

Anonymous

Aug 15, 2019

"I didn't know that burning the poison ivy plant could be dangerous. Thanks for the article."

Jean Nichols

Jun 25, 2019

"Very great article. Saw several others that had some of the same, except the coffee. "

Anonymous

Jul 20, 2019

"The most helpful tip was to apply rubbing alcohol to remove the oil immediately."

Anonymous

Feb 26

"What was really helpful was how to dry up the blisters so healing could begin."

Anonymous

May 11, 2019

"The entire article is very helpful, very informative. Good to read by all."

Paul Rakestraw

Jun 27, 2019

"Showed some alternate treatments and new preventative measures. Thanks."
Rated this article:

Jay Cassa

Aug 1, 2019

"I have tried a lot of things. I hope these answers will help. Thanks."

Anonymous

Jul 19, 2019

"Reading ways to help after I realized I had poison oak. Thank You!"

Todd

Jun 17, 2019

"Extremely informative.





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Date: 05.12.2018, 16:34 / Views: 63451