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How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy Rashes

Two Methods:Treating ImmediatelyTreating at Home After Exposure

Poison ivy, and its cousins, poison oak and poison sumac, contain an oil (urushiol) which can give you a wretched rash. If you've suffered the unfortunate event of directly contacting a poison ivy plant or one of its cousins, try these methods for lessening the effect of the rash and getting rid of it.

Method 1
Treating Immediately

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    Rinse your skin. Timeliness is key, so you should rinse the affected area with copious amounts of water within an hour or two - the sooner, the better. If you know you have contacted poison ivy, head for a stream or lake for some water. Rinse the area that came in contact with the poison ivy with cold water, being careful to avoid touching the area unnecessarily. Use the coldest water you are able to find as it will help close the pores in your skin, allowing the oils to be washed away rather than into your system. Do not use hot water at this point because doing so opens your pores, allowing more of the irritating (urushiol) oil to enter your body and setting the stage for a more severe allergic reaction.
    • If you encounter poison ivy near the beach, use some wet sand to scrub the area, then soak the area in seawater.[1]
    • Avoid showering your whole body to rinse the rash, as doing so may worse exposure by spreading the rash to other parts of your body.
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    Dab on some rubbing alcohol. Rinsing with cool water should be your first action when you think (or know) that you have contacted poison ivy. After you have rinsed, or if clear water is unavailable, bit of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton pad and pat it over the affected area. Drowning out the skin with the rubbing alcohol may stop the spread of the poison, and prevent the rash from becoming even worse in the future. Do this as soon as you are able in order to prevent the rash from growing.
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    Wash off with dish soap. The toxins from the poison ivy plant are an oil, and therefore won’t be able to be removed completely with just water. Use a dish soap that advertises breaking up oil to wash the affected area. The dish soap should help to minimize the spread of the poison and limit the rash.
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    Put on an ice pack. Closing off your pores will keep your skin from absorbing the toxic oils. Hold a cold compress or an ice pack to the rash to constrict the pores. Doing this will also feel soothing on the blistered skin.
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    Remove any clothes that came in contact with the poison. If your clothes are covered in the oil from the plant, touching them later could spread the rash to other parts of your body. Remove any clothes near the area and wash them immediately, separate from any other laundry.
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    Crush up some jewel weed. If you are outdoors, look for jewelweed - a plant that often grows near poison ivy and is a natural cure for the toxins. It can be recognized as a low growing leafy bush with yellow and orange bell shaped flowers. Crush up some of the weeds to form a paste, and then smear them across the rash. Leave the paste for as long as you can, replacing with a paste of fresh jewelweed when it becomes dried out.[2]

Method 2
Treating at Home After Exposure

Kitchen cupboard remedies

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    Make a paste of baking soda. This common household item will work to draw out the poisons in the skin and sooth the rash once it has already formed. Mix baking soda with a bit of water to form a paste, and then dab it onto the rash. Let it set until it dries out, and then rinse off with cool water. This process can be repeated several times daily until the rash disappears.
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    Wash with vinegar. Vinegar works many wonders, including helping to heal a poison ivy rash. Use regular or apple cider vinegar and pour it over the area. Let it sit on the rash until it evaporates. You can also pour vinegar onto a cotton ball and dab it onto the rash for a more specific location.
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    Put on some cold coffee. Brew up a cup of regular coffee and let it cool or place it in the refrigerator. Pour it onto the rash or use a cotton pad to dab it on. Coffee contains an acid that works as an anti-inflammatory, which soothes the rash and brings down any swelling and redness.
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    Take an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has long been used as a skin-soothing agent, and can be added to a bath to create a relaxing soak. Buy an oatmeal bath product or grind a cup of oatmeal in your blender and add it to a bath full of warm water. Soak in the mixture for 20 minutes to remove the itch of the rash.
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    Take a tea bath. Fill a hot bath with 6-8 bags of black tea. Black tea contains tannic acid, an anti-inflammatory that can help soothe a poison ivy rash. Soak in the tea for 20 or more minutes for the best results.
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    Use dish detergent, then oats. Wash the infected area with Dawn Dish detergent or any other brand that breaks up oils. Rinse the area with a lukewarm water, followed by cool water, to close up the pores. Apply witch hazel solution after it dries. Then, take a knee high sock or stocking and put some oatmeal inside it, tying it shut. Heat a small amount of water for about 1 minute. Insert the oat-filled knee high, end down into the hot water. When this has soaked a couple of minutes, squeeze out and dab onto affected areas. This will work as a drying agent. This method works well.

Bathroom cabinet remedies

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    Take an antihistamine. Because a poison ivy rash is an allergic reaction, taking an allergy pill should help a little. Pills containing diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl) can be purchased over the counter and ease the itching and the spread of the rash. [3]
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    Apply a corticosteroid cream. You can buy steroid creams over the counter at your pharmacy, and they should help ease the allergic reaction that causes the rash. Apply it a few times a day for the first few days, then less often as the rash fades.[4]
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    Use calamine lotion. If the itching is unbearable, smear on some of this popular lotion. Calamine lotion is FDA-recommended for poison ivy rashes, and can be reapplied a few times a day.[5]
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    Apply anti-itch cream. This doesn't destroy the oils but help resist scratching the rash which will make it spread. Resisting scratching at the rash is a key in destroying it. Apply once-three times a day. You should be able to find anti-itch cream at your local pharmacy or drugstore.

Herbal remedies

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    Use witch hazel. This astringent can be dabbed onto skin to help tighten the pores and soothe the itching. Use a bit daily to expedite the healing process of your poison ivy exposure.
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    Try tea tree oil. Another anti-inflammatory, putting a bit of pure tea tree oil on your rash will bring down the swelling and redness. Do this several times a day or whenever the itching is bad to get a bit of relief.[6]

Out in nature remedies

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    Apply cold sulfur. In a river or creek, sulfur can be identified by a white or bluish color in the river floor. Also look for white crabgrass rather than green. Sulfur drains the color from the grass and turns it white. It can be also be found in some springs. Sulfur is a mineral that can destroy the poison ivy oils. Apply two or three times a day or when the itching feels unbearable.
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    Apply aloe vera. This cactus-like plant is full of a gel typically used to treating sunburns. It works to add relief to itchy-burning sensations, similar to those caused by poison ivy. Break open a piece of a real plant and squeeze out the gel, or buy a bottle from your local drugstore, making sure that it is at least 95% aloe vera. Rub a coat over the rash and let it cool the skin.[7]
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    Apply Manzanita leaf tea. The tree/bush has mostly red, smooth bark and has dark green leaves. Put the leaves into a pot of boiling water and leave there for 5-10 minutes. Strain the leaves and cool before applying.


  • Don't pour alcohol onto the rash.
  • Scratching makes it worse. If you're child has poison ivy, cover the affected area in Benadryl cream, or Vaseline, then wrap it up in gauze. It helps keep the kids from accidental scratching. It's best to do it at night, but it can be done anytime. It also clears up in a few days or a little more depending on how severe the reaction is.
  • If you can't stand the itch, then put oatmeal in water and make into a paste, and then spread over your body.
  • Mix baking soda and water as a poultice, wrap cloth around it (make sure it isn't too tight!), and let it sit for eight hours. This will take away the red bumps. You can also put hydro-cortisone on it so you don't scratch it.
  • If your pets came into contact with the poisonous plants, make sure to wash them immediately. The irritating oil can remain on their fur and spread to other things when they come into contact.
  • Take a tablespoon of water and 3 teaspoons of baking soda and apply to the infected area. Be sure to keep it there for no less than 6 hours and it should clear the red blistery bumps!
  • If you choose to put aloe vera on the rash, it is best to do so before you have itched it at all. If you apply aloe vera to the open scratched bumps it will irritate it and can be very painful.
  • You can try putting Zija oil on the rash.
  • You can also run as hot of water as you can stand on the area. It will create a amazing sensation and the itch will be gone for a few hours. Be sure not to overdo it and burn yourself.
  • If you need drying of the skin, you can try mineral spirits.
  • Learn to recognize poison ivy and its habitat. Poison ivy often grows on forest margins, in dappled light. It does not do well in direct sun nor in moderate or deep shade. Thus, there is often a zone just as you enter a wooded area which extends several dozens of meters into the woods. Once you have navigated this zone while minimizing direct contact, you are good to go forest tromping in earnest.
  • Minimize contact with poison ivy. Your body can become sensitized to the oil over time and, all of a sudden, break out in a severe rash (when poison ivy never bothered you in the past). It is best not to tempt fate and to avoid poison ivy when possible.
    • For example, when eliminating poison ivy from your property, use a shovel to go under the shallow runner roots, then rinse the shovel well with stream of water from a hose.
    • All the roots must be removed to kill the plant, but you can do it slowly over time, getting more of the plant when new growth appears.
    • If you feel that you must pull by hand, use a bread bag to sheathe your arm, extract the plant, turn the bag inside out with the plant and oils now on the inside, throw the bag in the trash bin, rinse your arm(s) well with cool, running water, then wash twice with soap.


  • Never burn poison ivy. The smoke from a burning poison ivy plant contains the oil and if in the lungs, can cause serious problems. If you think you've done that, see a doctor immediately!
  • Most poison ivy rashes can be treated at home, and odds are you'll be fine with home remedies, but a few extreme cases need medical attention. If you're experiencing any of the following, make an appointment with your local clinic or general practitioner:[8]:
    • Rash on your face or genitals
    • Blisters that are oozing pus
    • Fever above 100°F (or 38°C)
    • A rash that persists for more than 2 weeks

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