Skip to content

Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Relieving the Itch

Font Size

Topic Overview

A rash caused by poison ivy, oak, or sumac may itch and produce blisters. Try the following suggestions and medicines to help relieve these symptoms.

General suggestions

Recommended Related to First Aid

Heat Stroke Treatment

Body temperature above 103° F Rapid pulse Reduced sweating Disorientation Unconsciousness Seizures Warm, red, dry skin

Read the Heat Stroke Treatment article > >

  • Although the rash does not spread through blister fluid, try not to scratch blisters. Scratching may cause a bacterial infection.
  • Apply wet compresses or soak the area in cool water for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. Do this for 1 to 4 days until the itching and blistering improve. Compresses or soaking water may include:
    • Baking soda. Add baking soda to water to make a solution for a wet compress, or mix it with water into a paste and then apply the paste to the rash.
    • Vinegar mixed with water.
    • Burow's solution (aluminum acetate). Apply as a compress during the blistering stage. Be sure to stop using this solution if any irritation occurs.
  • Take short, cool baths with or without an oatmeal additive (such as Aveeno).
  • Wear cotton or silk clothing. Avoid wearing wool and acrylic fabrics next to your skin.
  • Use as little soap as possible. Use gentle soaps, such as Basis, Cetaphil, Dove, or Oil of Olay. Avoid deodorant soaps when you have the rash.
  • Avoid dry skin, which makes the itching caused by the rash worse. Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp. Watch closely for excessive drying, which may occur when calamine lotion is used for an extended period. For more information, see the topic Dry Skin and Itching.

Medicine

Medicines that relieve itching include:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamine pills or tablets such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and prescription antihistamine pills such as Vistaril (hydroxyzine). These medicines may cause drowsiness. Talk to your doctor before you use these medicines. And do not drive while taking them. The form of Benadryl you spread on your skin may cause another allergic reaction and should not be used.
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone products, such as Cortaid, Caldecort, or Lanacort, that you spread on your skin. These products should only be used in mild cases, usually after the affected area has been soaked in water or a compress has been applied. Although safe, these products are not recommended for treating poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash, because they are not strong enough and may not be used long enough to be effective. They may seem to work for a while, but the rash often suddenly flares up again, sometimes worse than before.
1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Relieving the Itch Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.