How to Take Care of Skin While Drying Out Poison Ivy Rashes

Poison ivy grows freely in wooded areas.
Poison ivy grows freely in wooded areas. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Poison ivy rashes, also known as allergic contact dermatitis, cause pain and irritation wherever the plant has come in contact with the skin. A toxic oil resin in the plant, called urushiol, is the ingredient that causes the rash. Although your instinct may be to scratch and fuss over affected skin, this can spread the rash-causing oil to other areas of the body. Because a poison ivy rash can take one to four weeks to heal, it's important to properly care for your skin in the interim. By taking care of your skin while the rash clears up, you can reduce irritation and make the healing period less bothersome.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Towel
  • Bowl
  • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • Sponge
  • Colloidal oatmeal bath product
  • Washcloths
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Over-the-counter antihistamine

Wash the affected skin with cool water and soap. Avoid the use of warm water as this helps the poison ivy oil penetrate the skin. Use a gentle touch as you wash the skin, then rinse with cool water and pat dry with a soft towel.

Combine 1/2 rubbing alcohol with 1/2 cup cool water in a bowl. Sponge the diluted rubbing alcohol on the skin affected by poison ivy. Do this immediately after coming in contact with poison ivy to reduce a severe rash reaction.

Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and add a colloidal oatmeal bath product to soothe the skin. Soak in the tub for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day to relieve irritation.

Soak a clean washcloth in cool water and wring out the excess moisture. Apply the cool compress to your skin in-between baths to provide relief from itchiness and irritation. Allow the cool compresses to remain on your skin for 15 minutes at a time, repeating the procedure three to four times each day. Pat-dry the skin after using the compress.

Cool compresses made with washcloths provide relief.
Cool compresses made with washcloths provide relief. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Smooth hydrocortisone cream over the blistery rash. Take an over-the-counter antihistamine at night to provide relief and help you sleep.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants tucked into your socks to protect your skin while walking through wooded areas or other places where poison ivy is present. Purchase a commercial poison ivy oil blocker and apply it to uncovered areas of the skin. Substitute baking soda for colloidal oatmeal treatments in the bath water.

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