Poison ivy is a common plant found throughout North America and parts of Canada. It secretes a compound in its sap that causes uncomfortable contact dermatitis. The rash usually appears as red lesions or spots that may ooze or weep, sometimes accompanied by blisters.
Scratching the rash can spread it if the sap is still present on your skin. It can last up to three weeks before resolving, and most people find it very uncomfortable in the meantime. Luckily, there are plenty of home remedies for poison ivy available. Listed here are a few ways to negate the itching and discomfort of a poison ivy rash.
Vinegar helps to dry the weeping of the rash as well as soothing the itch. Chilling the vinegar solution as recommended below provides extra soothing for the inflammation. It is one of the easiest home remedies for poison ivy, since most households use it for cleaning and cooking.
- Cold white vinegar, 1/2 cup
- Water, 1 1/2 cups
Chill 1/2 cup of white vinegar diluted with 1 1/2 cups water in the fridge. Apply the solution to the rash with a damp cloth or gauze. Leave it for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it in case irritation develops. Make sure to put the cloth through the washing machine after use, or dispose of it.
Milk is a staple of most households, and using milk to alleviate itching can be less irritating to the skin than vinegar. This is especially handy if you have poison ivy on your face or other sensitive areas. The fat content is the main soothing ingredient of the milk, so make sure to get whole milk.
- Whole milk, 1 cup or more
Dampen a cloth with cold whole milk and apply it to the rash for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off the milk with warm water afterwards, and make sure to dispose of or wash the cloth you use.
3. Epsom salt baths
Epsom salt can be found at most pharmacies and grocery stores. Athletes use it for soaking sore muscles, but it is also effective in drying up poison ivy rashes. If you lack Epsom salt but live on the coast, just take a bath in the ocean! The ocean’s salt and mineral content heals many ailments and doubles as one of the many home remedies for poison ivy.
- Epsom Salt, 1 cup+
Draw a lukewarm bath and add about a cup or so of Epsom salt (read the instructions on the package). Soak in the bath for as long as you need to, at least 10-15 minutes. If the rash is located on an extremity, you can soak it in a bowl or bucket rather than a full bath. Use lukewarm water to avoid causing unnecessary irritation to healthy skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is finely milled oats dispersed into water. Oatmeal isn’t just a good source of complex carbohydrates— it also soothes itchy skin. Home remedies for poison ivy seem quite common in the kitchen!
- Oatmeal, 1 cup or more
- Or: Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment
- Coffee grinder (optional)
- Tights (optional)
You can grind up oats with a coffee grinder so they dissolve better in your bathwater. You can also take regular (not instant) oats and tie them into the foot of a pair of tights so they won’t clog your drain when your bath is over. Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment is 100% colloidal oatmeal, but since you probably already have oatmeal at home, you can just make your own. However you choose to get the oatmeal into your bath, soak in it for as long as you want. You can also soak oatmeal in a bowl of water and use that water as a compress.
Jewelweed, also called “Touch-Me-Not” due to its exploding seed pods, prefers damp soil and shade. It is commonly found along creek beds and has been used as a natural remedy by Native Americans for hundreds of years. This is an example of historical home remedies for poison ivy.
- Jewelweed stems
- Jewelweed leaves (optional)
- Boiling water (optional)
Crush jewelweed stems and rub them on the rash to help ease the irritation. Use enough to cover the rash. You can also create an infusion by boiling 1 cup jewelweed leaves or chopped stems in 2-3 cups of water. For extra calming power, freeze the infusion in ice cube trays and apply the ice cube to the rash as needed.
6. Domeboro and water
Domeboro is an astringent that promotes the healing of minor wounds. It was created by Dr. Karl Burow, the inventor of plastic surgery. Older home remedies for poison ivy often recommended this medicine. It can be found in most pharmacies and is over-the-counter.
- Domeboro Soothing Soak, 1-3 packets
- Water, 1 pint
Dissolve 1-3 packets in a pint of lukewarm to warm water and stir until the powder has dissolved. Soak the effected area for 15-30 minutes as needed, or soak a cloth in the solution and use as a compress. Discard the solution after using it.
7. Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion is a generic over-the-counter lotion available in most pharmacies. It soothes and protects itchy skin and helps dry the oozing.
- Calamine lotion
- Cotton balls or cloth
Apply the calamine lotion as needed with a cloth or cotton balls to avoid touching the rash directly. It will leave a pink coating on the skin. You can use it as often as you like.
Benadryl is an over-the-counter antihistamine used to control allergies and allergic reactions. It is available in liquid form for children and pill form for adults. The generic form is Diphenhydramine HCl.
- For adults: Benadryl or Diphenhydramine HCl, 25mg tablets
- For children age 6-11: Benadryl allergy liquid, 1-2 tsps
Make sure to follow dosage instructions carefully. Because histamines are often part of the itchiness of poison ivy, taking antihistamines can help calm it. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that takes effect right away, and can make you drowsy. You can take a dose every 4-6 hours or as directed by a doctor.
9. Baking Soda
Baking soda is an ingredient that helps breads and other baking items rise. It also helps relieve itching.
- Baking soda, 1/2 cup
- Warm water bath
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to a bathtub of warm water. Soak for at least 10 minutes. You can also mix 3tsp of baking soda with 1tsp of water to make a paste to apply to the rash. Wash this paste off after 30 minutes.
10. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is found in most drug stores and pharmacies. It is an astringent with anti-inflammatory properties, so it is both cleansing and helpful for itching. Avoid alcohol solutions of witch hazel, because the alcohol can be irritating.
- Alcohol-free witch hazel
- Cotton balls or cloth
Dampen a cotton ball or cloth with pure witch hazel and apply lightly to the rash. Use multiple times per day as needed.
11. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is an ancient curative for skin disorders and a common household plant. You can buy pure aloe vera gel at health-food stores or some pharmacies, or extract the gel from an aloe vera plant.
- Aloe vera gel
- Cotton balls or cloth
Apply the gel on the rash with a cotton ball or cloth as often as needed. The soothing and anti-inflammatory properties should ease the rash and encourage healing.
Cucumber can be used as a cooling anti-inflammatory agent for poison ivy rashes.
- 1 cucumber
Crush 1/4c of cucumber into a paste for large rashes. Apply and let dry. For smaller rashes, just lay a cucumber slice on the rash and allow it to dry.
Most poison ivy rashes will resolve within 1-3 weeks without the intervention of a doctor or dermatologist. Seek medical care if your rash is severe or widespread, if it doesn’t respond to home treatments, or if you experience difficulty breathing or swallowing. If your rash becomes warm or starts to exude pus, or if you develop a fever, you may have an infection that needs antibiotic treatment. For most cases, these home remedies for poison ivy will treat your symptoms until the rash resolves on its own.
Do you have a home remedy for poison ivy that you swear by? Share it below!