Poison Ivy & Oak: Treatment and Prevention (Video)

Steven Kern

Poison Oak & Ivy Treatment

Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan depending on the severity of the rash.

Never apply to the skin creams, lotions, ointments, or sprays containing benzocaine (examples: Solarcaine and others), antihistamines (examples: Benadryl, Caladryl, and others), or zirconium. These frequently produce allergic rashes.

Treatment options for mild to moderate rash:

Soaks: When the skin is weeping, oozing or crusted (or if bathing causes stinging or burning), use this technique:

1. Lie in a comfortable position, usually in bed, with a waterproof material over the mattress to prevent wetting the mattress.

2. Obtain dressings, which do not need to be sterile. These may be 2-4 inch wide Kerlix, soft gauze, or soft linen such as old sheeting or pillowcases, handkerchiefs, or shirts.

3. Moisten the dressings by immersing them in a solution of two Domeboro Blueboro tablets or packets per quart of lukewarm water. Alternatively, you may use a solution of ¼ cup of vinegar per quart of water.

4. Gently wring them out so they are sopping wet, but not dripping. Wrap loosely several layers on affected skin so that rapid drying does not occur. Cover with a towel.

5. Remove after ____ minutes. If dry, it may be necessary to re-moisten dressings to remove adherent crusts. Re-apply with the following frequency: __________.

6. Discard or launder dressing material daily

7. Do not treat more than one-third of the body at a time in order to avoid excessive chilling.

Baths: take baths with Aveeno colloidal oatmeal added to bathwater (one cup to ½ tub), 2-3 times per day.

Antihistamines: Itching can be reduced with the use of oral antihistamines. There are many effective medications in this class. These are typically started at a low dose and gradually increase until relief is obtained or intolerable side effects occur, which ever occurs first. Drowsiness is the most common side effect at higher doses. However, this and other side effects sometimes resolve after a few days even while continuing to take the medication.

Caution must be used when driving or performing sensitive tasks. Use of alcohol should be avoided or limited due to increased side effects and Never used before driving. Caution must also be used if other medications that can reduce one’s alertness are used (for example Valium, Librium, Xanax, and barbiturates. The combination of these medications may cause decreased alertness).

Calamine lotion: This is non-prescription item also reduces itching and is soothing. Apply as often as needed.

Topical corticosteroids: Immediately after bathing and also one other time during the day, apply to the involved skin. Wait until after the blisters have subsided before starting this treatment.

Treatment option for severe rash

Oral corticosteroid: Prednisone, a corticosteroid medication taken by mouth, is dramatically effective in treating a severe rash. It’s safe to take for a short period (three weeks). If taken for too short a time, a “rebound” effect may occur when it is stopped, where the skin suddenly gets worse. Thus it is important to precisely follow the instructions given. If you have a peptic ulcer, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you should inform your doctor.

Improvement in your rash should be prompt and steady. It depends on getting enough steroids. If you don’t improve steadily, please call your doctor so treatment can be modified.

A blistering and itching rash can occur after the skin comes into contact with an oil found on certain plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac.

The following video provides some tips on caring for skin that has been affected by this rash and suggestions on when to seek medical care.

The American Academy of Dermatology is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000, it represents virtually all practicing dermatologists in the United States.


Reference: American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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