a close-up photo of poison ivy that likely required the camera man to receive poison ivy treatments

Poison Ivy Treatments

Spending time in the great outdoors is a highly enjoyable for many people. However, when you stumble into a patch of poison ivy, your fun trip can quickly become a miserable experience. Poison ivy is a very common, highly adaptive weed that will take up residence in yards, woodlands, waste areas, vacant lots, and even roadside ditches. Its unremarkable appearance can make it easy to miss or mistake for a harmless plant, which is why it catches so many hikers and gardeners off guard.

Unfortunately, a few hours after even the slightest exposure, most people will begin noticing uncomfortable skin irritation. By the next day, the exposed skin will often be broken out in itchy, painful rashes that may also include weeping blisters. This effect is caused by urushiol, a chemical found in poison ivy and its annoying relatives. If you're unlucky enough to accidentally have a close encounter with this plant, you should know that there are numerous remedies available to you.

Bar Laundry Soap

One little-known but highly effective treatment for poison ivy is to wash the affected area with bar laundry soap, which can be found in your store's cleaning aisle. However, it's important to note that it must be used very soon after exposure in order to be effective, before the rash even begins to appear. This remedy has been used for over a century to prevent poison ivy rashes with a very high rate of success.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is one of the most recommended treatments for skin irritations of any kind, and this includes poison ivy. Although it won't stop the rash from occurring, this oddly pink lotion will certainly help ease the discomfort and reduce your urge to scratch. Calamine lotion is very safe, so feel free to use it as often as necessary.

Hydrocortisone Cream

For poison ivy rashes that are too extreme for plain old calamine lotion, a hydrocortisone cream or ointment may be of greater help. As a corticosteroid, hydrocortisone works by suppressing the skin's inflammation response and also minimizing histamine, which causes the dreadful itching. Some people have a greater sensitivity to urushiol than others, and these individuals may experience very severe rashes. If this is the case for you, your doctor may be able to give you a prescription for a high-potency ointment than what's available over the counter.


It's long been known that cucumber is good for soothing the skin, but did you know that it can also help relieve poison ivy? The naturally occurring substances in the cucumbers reduce inflammation, cool the burning feelings, and help make the itching more tolerable. Simply apply a few slices to the affected area and leave them for 20 to 30 minutes several times per day.

A run-in with poison ivy can quickly ruin your pleasant outdoor nature hike, but you don't have to let it ruin your entire week. By employing a combination of the above tactics, you can either prevent the rash from developing or at least minimize the severity of your symptoms.

Last Updated: February 09, 2016