According to Princeton University Health Services, approximately 85 percent of the population is sensitive to urushiol, the active ingredient in poison ivy, and will break out in a vesicular rash within 48 hours of exposure. Home remedies may be helpful for relieving symptoms. Poison ivy can create an allergic reaction, which may become life-threatening. If the rash is severe, or if there is swelling of the lips, mouth or tongue with difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
In cases of poison ivy rashes on the face, it is important to avoid touching the rash and spreading it. Poison ivy in the eyes may lead to serious vision problems. Keep your hands scrupulously clean and avoid scratching.
A variety of creams, ointments and lotions are available to soothe the itching and some may help clear it entirely, according to the HealthLeader, an online wellness magazine published by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Calamine lotion or a mixture of calamine and Benedryl, called Caladryl, soothes itching and dries up the rash. Other common topical applications to relieve the itch are oatmeal, which can be made into a paste mixed with water, aloe vera juice, zinc oxide and Burrows solution.
A paste made by mixing 3 tsp. baking soda with 1 tsp. water can be applied to the rash and allowed to remain on the skin, according to Columbia University's Go Ask Alice website. In addition, apple cider vinegar can be gently dabbed on the face with a cotton ball to soothe the rash and help prevent it from spreading.
For those who are unable to find relief from the itching using topical applications, taking antihistamines orally is the next step. Benedryl is available in capsules, tablets and liquid and often suggested by health practitioners and moms, according to the Princeton University Health Services. Sometimes antihistamines are too strong for some people, and using the liquid is a good solution because the dose can be adjusted based on each person's specific needs.
Although there is little scientific research available, there is anecdotal evidence that certain homeopathic remedies may bring relief to those suffering from poison ivy. The "Synoptic Materia Medica," written by homeopath Frans Vermeulen, mentions several remedies that can be used in the treatment of poison ivy.
Rhus Toxicadendron, or Rhus tox, is especially suited for treating poison ivy, oak or sumac rash. It may help relieve severe itching and dry up vesicles. Rhus tox helps relieve symptoms of poison ivy in and around the eyes, such as yellow pus exuding from the sores, inflammation of the lids, swelling and itching. In some cases of poison ivy, individuals develop aching, pain and stiffness in the joints as concomitant symptoms to the rash. Rhus tox is also indicated for these cases and may bring relief.
Another common remedy useful in the treatment of poison ivy rashes is Croton Tiglium, or Croton tig. This remedy is especially indicated for poison ivy rashes on the face, according to Vermeulen. Individuals who need this remedy experience intense itching from the rash and a feeling of tightness of the skin on the face and throughout the body. Although the itching is fearsome, individuals also experience burning and pain whenever they scratch. The vesicles ooze excessively.
- Princeton University Health Services: Skin Care
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: HealthLeader: Poison Ivy
- Go Ask Alice: Poison Ivy, Oak, Sumac
- “Synoptic Materia Medica“, Frans Vermeulen, 1992
Jean Bardot is a freelance writer and natural health practitioner. She started writing in 1994 and has contributed articles to publications such as "Similimum" and the "IFH Journal." She has a Bachelor of Science in public health from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Science in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health.