You are most likely to come in contact with poison ivy in the summer. This time of year, the plant has green leaves. These have smooth or notched edges and come in three-leaf groupings. Here in the Midwest, poison ivy grows as a vine.
If you are among the 85 percent of people who are sensitive to urushiol—the oil found in this plant’s sap that causes allergic reactions—you can expect to develop an itchy rash within 12 to 48 hours of touching poison ivy. Here are some at-home remedies you can try to relieve the itching.
- Rubbing alcohol: If you think you may have brushed up against poison ivy, rub the area with an alcohol wipe as soon as possible. This is an effective way to remove urushiol from the skin and help minimize your discomfort. Always bring alcohol wipes with you when you go hiking or camping so you can utilize this effective treatment.
- Lotions and creams: Also carry hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or aloe vera gel in your hiking backpack. These products, designed to reduce itching and swelling, many provide relief.
- Shower: As soon as you get home, hop in the shower. Washing off within 60 minutes of exposure to poison ivy may help limit the severity of your rash. When you remove your clothes, put them in a plastic bag, and only handle them with rubber gloves until they have been laundered.
- Oatmeal bath: Adding oatmeal or an oatmeal-based product to lukewarm bathwater can help relieve itching thanks to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of oats. Soak for up to 30 minutes to enjoy relief from your symptoms.
- Baking soda bath: Another option is to pour a cup of baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, into your bathwater.
- Cold compress: Reduce itching and inflammation by placing a damp washcloth on the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. You may find additional relief from soaking the cloth in apple cider vinegar, iced back tea, or aluminum acetate.
- Antihistamine pills: While you shouldn’t apply antihistamine cream to a poison ivy rash, taking Benadryl before bed can help you sleep through your symptoms.
- Bentonite clay: This natural clay product is found in various personal care products. Creating a paste of bentonite clay and water may treat your itchiness quite effectively.
- Steroid medications: You’ll need to see your doctor for this one, but it’s certainly worth the effort if at-home treatments aren’t strong enough. Prescription steroid medication comes in many forms, including topical creams or gels, injections, and oral tablets. Prednisone is one option your doctor might prescribe.
While at-home poison ivy treatments are often effective, you should visit a dermatologist if the rash covers a large portion of your body, fails to improve after a week, or results in severe allergic reactions. Call Arlington Dermatology in Rolling Meadows, IL at (847) 725-0824 for more information or to schedule an appointment.