Home Remedies for Poison Ivy: Ways To Stop the Itch Fast

By Robynn Lowe
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 22, 2022

Poison ivy is a poisonous plant that grows throughout the United States except for Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the West Coast. 

Poison ivy can be recognized by its leaves which have three glossy leaflets, either with smooth or toothed edges.

In the spring, leaves are reddish in color, in the summer they turn green, and in the fall they can be yellow, orange, or red in color.

Poison ivy rashes can take hours or several days after exposure to develop. These rashes are usually very itchy and can sometimes cause blisters.

Thankfully, poison ivy rashes aren’t contagious and can’t spread from person to person.

But you can be exposed to poison ivy by coming into contact with clothing, pets, tools, and other items that have urushiol oil on them, which is why washing your clothing and other materials after coming into contact with the plant is important.

In the meantime, below are some of the most effective remedies you can try to help alleviate the itch and discomfort that a poison ivy rash causes.

Wash the Rash at the First Sign of Poison Ivy

Dermatologists recommend rinsing your skin with lukewarm, soapy water immediately after coming into contact with the poison ivy plant.

This will help to rinse off some of the oil that causes a poison ivy rash. 

You should also thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came in contact with the plant and anything else that may have the plant oil on its surface.

Importantly, you should try to avoid or limit scratching, which can increase the risk of infection.

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Apply a Cold Compress

Cool compresses or washcloths applied to the rash area will help temporarily alleviate the itch. 

Soak in an Oatmeal Bath

Taking short baths in lukewarm water prepared with colloidal oatmeal will help relieve the itching and irritation of the rash.

Use Hydrocortisone Cream or Calamine Lotion

Certain over-the-counter (OTC) creams and lotions can also provide relief.

Calamine lotion will help dry the oozing and weeping of poison ivy and hydrocortisone can help relieve the itch.

Take an Oral Antihistamine

OTC oral antihistamines pills like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin), or cetirizine (Zyrtec) can relieve itchy skin caused by a poison ivy rash.

Importantly, you should not apply topical antihistamines directly to your skin, as these can worsen your poison ivy rash and exacerbate the itch. 

Make a Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda is a protectant that can relieve minor irritation and itching caused by poison ivy rashes.

You can add one cup of baking soda to a lukewarm bath or make a paste to apply directly to the skin by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water until it is the consistency of a paste.

Soothe the Skin With Aloe Vera

The gel from the aloe vera plant is used to soothe many skin conditions, including burns, psoriasis, and dermatitis.

Though there isn’t enough evidence to show that aloe vera will speed up the healing process of a poison ivy rash, it may help to soothe and cool the skin, providing temporary relief.

Don’t Use Apple Cider Vinegar

These days, apple cider vinegar is often recommended as a panacea for many ailments.

Unfortunately, evidence demonstrating its health benefits is limited and mixed. In fact, if consumed in excess, apple cider vinegar can actually be harmful to your health.

When treating poison ivy rashes specifically, the National Poison Control Center does not recommend applying vinegar of any kind topically, as it can further irritate the skin and increase pain and discomfort.

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When To See a Medical Professional

In most cases, a poison ivy rash can be managed at home and will improve within 7-10 days and completely resolve within 2-3 weeks. 

But if you experience any of the following symptoms, please seek emergency care:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Severe skin pain
  • A rash around the eyes, mouth, or genitals
  • Swelling of the face (particularly around the eyes)
  • Itching that gets worse or makes sleep impossible
  • Rash that covers the majority of your body
  • A fever

How K Health Can Help

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Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

How do you cure poison ivy fast?
In most cases, a poison ivy rash will take 7-10 days to improve and 2-3 weeks to completely resolve. In the meantime, there are several things you can do at home to alleviate itch and discomfort. Most importantly, you should wash the rash with soap and lukewarm water as soon as possible after coming into contact with the plant. Afterward, applying cold compresses to the rash, soaking in a warm bath with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda, and applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can help alleviate itch. Taking an oral histamine can be beneficial too, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping at night.
What dries up poison ivy rash fast?
Calamine lotion can help dry the oozing and weeping of a poison ivy rash. Importantly, astringents like vinegar should not be applied directly to your skin as they can further irritate the rash and cause increased pain and discomfort. Other remedies that can provide immediate relief include applying a cold compress to your skin, soaking in a bath with lukewarm water and colloidal oatmeal or baking soda, and applying hydrocortisone cream.
Should you use Benadryl to treat a poison ivy rash?
Oral antihistamine pills, including diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and loratadine (Claritin) can relieve itchy skin caused by a poison ivy rash. Taking oral antihistamine pills at night can be especially helpful if your itchy rash is making it difficult for you to fall or stay asleep. But keep in mind that you should not apply topical antihistamines directly to your skin, as this can worsen the rash and itch.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Robynn Lowe

Robynn Lowe is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years in the medical field. Robynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida Atlantic University and has been practicing in rural family medicine since. Robynn is married to her college sweetheart, Raymond and they have three awesome children. When Robynn isn't with patients you can find her shopping, coaching her kids sports teams, or spending time on the water.