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How to get rid of poison ivy rashes

Posted by mandyf on April 8, 2012

Getting rid of a poison ivy rash is no easy task, anyone that has contracted it in their life can testify to that. There are countless old wives tales surrounding what does and doesn’t work and many are just that, tales. Once you have come in contact with poison ivy there are some tips to try to get rid of the urushiol oil before it sets in, but that isn’t always possible. While I will touch on prevention very briefly, the focus of this article will be on treating an already active poison ivy rash.

Very briefly if you come in contact with poison ivy wash your hands as soon as possible. Use soapy water and get between the fingers and under the nails. Repeat the process several times, and use isopropyl alcohol or a like solvent like witch hazel to help separate the oil from your skin. This part applies in every case- remove all your clothing and wash it separately from all other clothes. Washing it twice isn’t always necessary but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The last thing you want is the oil finding it’s way back onto your body after you have just gotten rid of the rash. Second, anything you may have been using which came in contact with poison ivy should be scrubbed down to help prevent re-contamination.

Now assuming you have a rash there is no magic bullet to just get rid of it over night. The only thing you can really do is treat it to speed the healing and ease the pain. A common way to soothe the rashed area is to use an ice pack to help quell the area and ease the bubbling effect it creates. Something that works really well is soaking the area in whole milk, the fat is important here, because that eases the itching and burning sensation and that is exactly what you want as scratching only spreads the problem. Burrows Solution is an antibacterial solution that can lessen the burning sensation as well. The key to these steps are that they constrict blood vessels in the area which is what relieves the itchy feeling. Remember when you itch you just add time to the life of the rash.

After using an ice pack, cool compress, or whatever method you choose for this purpose, and give the are a soak in milk, or saltwater which helps clear the infection, be sure to apply something to help keep the itching at bay and dry the blisters. Calamine lotion is a time tested and true agent that does the job extremely well. Other excellent products are Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with oatmeal, Band-Aid Anti Itch gel, or Aloe Vera. It is important to pair one of these or a similar agent to truly knock out the rash as soon as possible.

To further reduce the time and pain a poison ivy rash inflicts on the body, oral antihistamines can work wonders. Be sure you are able to use them and have no adverse physical reactions or allergies before using one. Benadryl is the most common solution here as it reduces the swelling, itching and burning the rash carries. If you have any doubts or aren’t sure about dosage ask a pharmacist or better yet your doctor before using an antihistamine.

Finally it sounds basic but is extremely difficult to carry through on, just don’t scratch! Scratching is poison ivy’s friend. It excites the area opening up blood vessels with causes more of the urge to itch and it spreads the infection. Don’t pop blisters, again your are just spreading the infection. keep your rashes exposed to open air as much as possible so your skin can dry out more quickly.

If a rash persists or it is just too painful to deal with please see your doctor. They can provide prescription strength treatments to ease a particularly pesky infection. They can also drain blistered areas in a safe sterile manner to ease your pain further. If you have trouble breathing, more than 1/4 of your body covered in a rash, rashes on the genital region, an odor, colored pus, or rashes/blisters around the nasal openings or eyes see a doctor at once. Poison ivy doesn’t prove lethal often but in some rare cases it is just that. Be safe and see a doctor is any of the above fit the nature of outbreak you are dealing with.


4 Responses to “How to get rid of poison ivy rashes”

  1. sallykwitt said

    I have a long horrible history with poison ivy. One of the best things for me has been salt water. Going for a soak in the ocean is best, but you can make a bath with table salt or sea salt as well. Salt is healing and drying. All of your suggestions are great, and you will probably use more than one at a time to get some relief!

  2. Tom Laing said

    Fortunately poison ivy and I have kept our distance throughout my life and from reading your article I hope we we remain forever separated and never get up close and personal. Thanks for the info should there be a change of circumstances.

  3. Just shared this, Mandy – some great advice.

  4. I fortunately came down with poision ivy my brother told me that salt water will do the trick I hope so I’m heading to Florida. Thanks Sally I’m going to swim in the saltwater.

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