Home Remedy: How to Treat a Rash from Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron). Photo by Martin Labar

If you are allergic to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, and you acquire a rash after being exposed to one of these wicked plants, there are a variety of home remedies and doctor-prescribed treatments that claim to help you through these itchy times.

As a regular victim of poison ivy (east coast) and oak (west coast) I rely on the good old-fashioned pink stuff, Calomine lotion, to reduce the itch and dry out the rash as it heals. I only wish the marketing wizards at Calomine would come out with a tan-skin-colored version. When seriously exposed, I’ve used a doctor-prescribed steroid ointment. And I’ve tried countless home remedies including but not limited to: washing with gasoline or bleach, and smothering with over-the-counter natural ointments.

Aside from high-powered drugs, which have their side effects, none of these treatments prevent an itchy ride. Here’s what you can expect if you’ve been recently exposed.

Day 1: Exposure to plant.
Day 3: Rash begins to appear in highly exposed areas of your skin
Day 5: Rash has spread to all exposed areas and beyond. The itchiness really intensifies around this point so be prepared for some sleepless nights. And DON’T Scratch!
Day 7: Just as a fever breaks so does the itchiness of an allergic rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac. About now the itching will retreat and your wounds will begin to heal.
Day 12: Unless you developed serious blisters, your new skin should be grown in by now and looks as good as new. Oozing blisters may leave some lingering scars.

Five Ways To Prevent Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
The best treatment for poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac is prevention. If you can repel the oils of these irritating plants before they penetrate your skin you’ll never find yourself scratching an itchy rash.

  1. Know how to identify the plants that are native to your area. Look here to see which plants grow in your area and to find pictures of their leaves. Once you can identify these plants you can begin avoiding them.
  2. Apply Tecnu to your skin BEFORE going out into an area that may have poison ivy, oak, or sumac. I try to do this whenever I work in my backyard since I know very well that poison ivy lurks about.
  3. Walk on open trails. Avoid underbrush and overgrown paths.
  4. Wear boots, socks, pants, long sleeves, and gloves when trouncing through areas that may have these plants.
  5. After exposure to these plants, remove the above listed clothes in an orderly fashion and immediately place them in a plastic garbage bag for washing.

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