HELP - I've got Poison Ivy (Treatment Plan)

5:49 PM

Red Itchy Poison Ivy
It's kind of hard to tell from this picture but I've got a wicked case of poison ivy.  The red itchy rash covers both arms, my chest, neck and face.  In a word - it's HORRIBLE!

Poison Ivy Magnet
What's worse, is that my sweet Yorkie Poo Daisy is the culprit!!  Who would imagine that my sweet baby would cause so much misery?  We had guests on Sunday and the dog had just come in from outside.  I grabbed her, clutched her to my chest and took her upstairs.  After depositing her in my bedroom I returned to the living room to greet my guests.  Daisy made herself comfortable on the pillows on our bed. (Inset horror movie sounds here)

This is what you need to know about

Pets and Poison Ivy

*  Pets don't usually get poison ivy, but they can carry the oils on their fur.
*  If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to poison ivy, give them a bath using your usual bath time products.  MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GLOVES AND LONG SLEEVES!
* Wash everything your pet may have touched
    (human and pet bedding - especially pillows and pillowcases)
*  Wash your skin thoroughly after exposure

Daisy's regular bath time products
Baby Shampoo for her face, Dog shampoo for her body, conditioner for a silky coat

Treating the Rash
There a literally hundreds of home brewed concoctions available on the Internet.  Here are some of my favorites (along with their pros and cons)

First and foremost, wash the effected area with soap and water.

The key to minimizing the spread of poison ivy (or poison oak) is to stop the spread of the oils from the plant (urushiol).  Urushiol can be difficult to break down.  It can stay on surfaces for up to 5 years!!

OTC Hero

I'll list lots of home remedy's below but the over the counter hero is a product called Tecnu.  The wash used in combination with the anti itch gel worked like magic on my skin.  

Pros: Works quickly and effectively and is available at most drug stores.
Cons:  It stings and tingles.  
Other considerations:  Costs more than home remedies.  I paid about $30 for the wash and the gel.  I made a bucket of warm water and Tecnu wash.  It worked great to remove urushiol from my dog's fur, sofa cushions and pillows.   

Home Remedies

Poison Ivy Treatment #1
Baking Soda Paste
Mix 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of water and make a paste.  Smooth the paste on liberally.  Allow it to dry and flake off naturally.

Pro:  Soothes rash and itching and helps it to heal faster!
Cons:  As it dries it flakes off and falls all over the place.
Additional considerations:  Leaving a trail of baking soda flakes all over the place is not great.  If the make the paste with a raw egg and soda, it flakes less and the baking soda stays in contact with the skin longer. 

Treatment #2

Washing with Black Soap
Wash the area several times a day with African Black Soap.  Black soap soothes irritation skin and is excellent for conditions like eczema or anything that causes inflammation of the skin.

Pro: Soothes the rash and itch
Cons: Drys the skin.  Might be hard to find in some areas.  I use black soap in combination with other treatments.
Additional Information:  Black soap is now available at Target and major drug stores.  Look in the aisle with ethnic body care or hair products.

Common treatment I CANNOT recommend

Bleach and Poison Ivy
Some people use a diluted mixture of bleach and water on poison ivy.  The crazy thing about bleach is that it TOTALLY WORKS.  The down side is that it can burn your skin VERY BADLY!  Think about it - bleach on an open blister - NO BUENO!

If you're impatient and you want relief NOW, here's how you can use bleach to treat poison ivy safely.  Take a bleach bath.  Fill a bathtub with warm (not hot) water and add 1 cup of bleach.  NO MORE than 1 cup.

Pros: A bleach bath goes a long way to sooth itch and help with healing.
Cons: Can dry and irritate the skin.
Additional information:  Since you can't live in a bleach bath, you'll need a back up strategy for when the itch comes back.

Other poison ivy treatments

Other Treatments
Lots of people recommend a soothing oatmeal bath.  I don't enjoy baths and I certainly don't enjoy them with oatmeal.  Oatmeal baths provide temporary relief from itching and sooth skin.

Rubbing the rash with a banana peel ,aloe, ice, alcohol or lemon juice all provide temporary relief.  These are not my favorite treatments as most of them only last for a short period of time. They are, however, all effective.

Treating the Itch
By far, the worse part of having poison ivy is the itch!  It's enough to drive you crazy!!!  Fighting itch with poison ivy is a Sophie's Choice of bad options.  Generally speaking you'll end up balancing effective itch relief, burning/tingling skin/dry irritated skin.

Here are my favorite long term itch relief options.

Vicks kills the itch of poison ivy

I have no idea why this works but it does.  I experienced Rebound poison ivy (read more about that below) and I could not sleep through the night without a terrible itch.  Applying a heavy coat of Vicks Vapor Rub to the effected area before I went to bed worked like a charm.  It not only stopped the itch, it allowed me to sleep peacefully all night!

Amazing itch fighter

Tea tree oil is an AMAZING all natural itch fighter.  I'm not a fan of the smell but it works!  It leaves the skin tingling but not quite burning.  I don't think Tea Tree is very comfortable (tingling skin, medicine smell) but it's FAR better than itching.  Apply directly to the skin with a cotton ball.

Soothes the itch - minimal burn
Witch hazel is rubbing alcohol's little cousin.  It relieves itch and is not overly drying to the skin.  I like to put it (undiluted) in a small spray bottle.  It feels cool and soothing when sprayed on the skin.  It will also cool hot skin.

Chamomile Tea
Make a strong cup of chamomile tea and let it cool.  Spray it on to soothe and cool the skin.

DIY Itch Spray

The best itch solution of all to make your own itch spray!!

1 oz Tea Tree Oil
2 oz Witch Hazel
2 oz chamomile tea (strong brewed and cooled)

Combine in a spray bottle.  Shake well, spray effected areas as often as necessary.  This mixture is gentle enough to use on children.

Make A Plan
Finally, if the worst happens and poison ivy strikes, come up with a strategy!

Here's my sample Poison Ivy Plan:

Step 1 - Wash effected area with soap immediately. (Black soap if I have it)
Step 2 - Make and apply baking soda paste. 
Step 3 - Sit still and allow the paste to dry.
Step 4 - Rub skin with Tea Tree oil
Step 5 - Mix up a batch of itch spray to use when necessary.

Use paste 2-3x a day when I'm home.
Carry a small bottle of itch spray in my purse.

Me covered in soda paste

Home Plan
*  Treat the effected areas as necessary.
*  Wear loose, clothing until skin is fully healed.
*  Keep itch relief spray near by.

Work Plan
*  Cover effected areas so that I'm not tempted to scratch.
*  Keep itch relief near by.

Sleep Plan
*  Loosely cover effected areas.
*  Keep sleeping area nice and cool.
*  Apply tea tree oil directly to the rash before bed.  Keep itch relief spray near by.

Mock Turtleneck and Pearls cover itchy red skin

Over The Counter Medical Treatment
I tend to prefer homeopatic treatment for most ailments but I'm not AT ALL opposed to doctors and medication.  If the symptoms are really bad and you need relief RIGHT NOW my doctor recommends taking

 1 Benedryl & 1 Pepcid at the same time.  

Benedryl blocks H1.  Pepcid blocks H2.  This is a very fast acting combination that works WELL. On a scale of 1-10 this drug combination took my itch level from 10 down to about 3 in 15 minutes.   The relief is relatively short lived (4-6 hours) and the benedryl may cause drowsiness.  Generic equivalnts work as well as the name brand meds.

When to Call A Doctor!
*  These tips work for a mild to moderate case of poison ivy.  If your symptoms are severe consult a doctor immediately!  There are presciptions available that can greatly reduce rash and itch.  Prescriptions for poison ivy usually contain steroids and should be taken with care under medical supervision. 
* It's not uncommon for poison ivy rash and itch to go away only to flare up worse that before- especially at night.  If the tips listed on the page don't help to calm the symptoms, consult a medical professional.

Recurrence / ReBound Poison Ivy
Rebound poison ivy is when you had an outbreak, it goes away and then come back again.  You might have reinfected yourself, or you might be experiencing  a bought rebound poison ivy.  If you think you're having a rebound outbreak SEE A DOCTOR!!  Rebound can last for MUCH longer than the standard 1-3 weeks of a regular outbreak.  Rebounds are usually not as bad but they're still itchy/rashy/uncomfortable!  You'll most likely need to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.  Rebound can occur even after you've received steroid treatment.  

Additional Information:
* Be careful that you don't reinfect yourself!  Thoroughly wash (or throw away) any clothing that may have come in contact with poison ivy.
* Once the rash clears your skin may be VERY DRY!  The new skin (rash free) will be sensitive.  Make sure to gentle moisturize as often as necessary
* In time your rash may develop scabs.  Don't panic.  That's just part of the process.  Wait for the scabs to fall off on their own and deeply moisturize the new skin.
*  While the rash can last from 1-3 weeks.  The most uncomfortable/deeply itchy part of the poison ivy process should pass in a day or 2.


The effects of poison ivy can last from 1-3 weeks!  Treat early and often for the best relief!  The first couple of days are the worst.  Once you've figured out what rash soothing/itch relief strategy works for you the time flies by quickly.


In a pinch, hand sanitizer will cool skin, calm itch and keep the rash from spreading!  (Weirdly - It also works great as deodorant in a pinch)

Emergency Relief

For more Tips and Tricks, click HERE!

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  1. So sorry to hear this but believe me I sympathize. I got my first case of it last summer on my ankles and the itch just about drove me crazy. I tried a few natural remedies as you suggested and then an over the counter cream but finally had to go to the doctor for a prescription - for a cortisone cream I believe. One thing to mention - it seemed to clear up and I was fine for a couple of weeks and then for some reason it flared up again - needed a second dose before it finally went away so keep an eye on things. Good luck - hope you feel better soon.

    1. Great point Margie! You have to know when to call a doctor.

      Also reflares are often caused from reinfection. You have to be sure to wash clothes and sheets so that you don't reinfect yourself. It's especially important to wash seasonal items like gardening gloves, clothes and shoes. The oils from poison ivy can survive on fabrics from season to season. So the socks or gloves that got poison ivy on them last year can infect you this year if left unwashed.

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