How do I Choose the Best Poison Ivy Treatment?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Poison ivy is a type of plant that causes a blistering and itchy rash after direct contact. Though not all people have an allergic reaction to poison ivy, it is quite common and can be a cause of serious discomfort. There are many options to choose from to help relieve the symptoms of poison ivy; choosing the best poison ivy treatment may depend on severity of symptoms and a proven effectiveness.

An oatmeal-based lotion can help with poison ivy.
An oatmeal-based lotion can help with poison ivy.

The best poison ivy treatment is a quick response. If exposure to the plant is noted, some health experts suggest immediately pouring rubbing alcohol on exposed skin, then washing in water followed by a shower with water and soap. This may remove the reaction-causing chemicals before they have a chance to attack the body. It may be a good idea to bring a bottle of rubbing alcohol on any camping trip or hike in case of exposure.

Poison ivy.
Poison ivy.

If a rash occurs, poison ivy treatment may help remove the stinging, itchiness, and pain that are common side effects. Over the counter medicine used for poison ivy treatments include antihistamines, soothing lotions such as calamine lotion, and hydrocortisone creams. Lotions should be used with care, as any allergies or skin sensitivities may seriously worsen if skin is already experiencing an allergic reaction. Consider avoiding lotions that have fragrances, parabens, or known allergens.

Creams that can treat the symptoms of poison ivy are available.
Creams that can treat the symptoms of poison ivy are available.

For those who prefer to use a homeopathic poison ivy treatment, folklore has long suggested that adding baking soda to a cool bath may help soothe the irritating itch by neutralizing the sting. Some alternative health experts also recommend using colloidal oatmeal in a cool bath as it is believed to have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. Colloidal oatmeal is often easily found in health food or bulk food stores.

A man with poison ivy blisters on his hand.
A man with poison ivy blisters on his hand.

For severe rashes that are widespread over the body or include searing blisters, consider getting prompt medical attention. Although hydrocortisone cream is often available in drugstores in low concentrations, doctors may be able to provide a prescription for a higher dose of the medication. Some health care professionals may also choose to treat the rash with an oral medication, such as a corticosteroid for the fastest possible relief.

Oral antihistamines can help treat inflammation and itching caused by poison ivy.
Oral antihistamines can help treat inflammation and itching caused by poison ivy.

Regardless of which poison ivy treatment is used, symptoms can take days or weeks to clear up, depending on severity. The healing period often includes skin sensitivity and peeling, similar to the level experienced with a bad sunburn. Health experts warn against scratching itchy skin or popping blisters, as this can aggravate the reaction. Choosing the best poison ivy treatment may be matter of trial and error; if a remedy works, stick with it.

Poison ivy may cause severe itching.
Poison ivy may cause severe itching.
Hydrocortisone cream can be bought over-the-counter to treat poison ivy.
Hydrocortisone cream can be bought over-the-counter to treat poison ivy.
A poison ivy rash may appear as a red, itchy rash marked by bumps.
A poison ivy rash may appear as a red, itchy rash marked by bumps.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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