Poison Ivy Treatment and Cure

If you have been affected by poison ivy, you should be well aware of the itchy rashes that develop. It is important to know that there is no poison ivy cure, in the sense that once you have come into contact with the plant, you can not simply ingest medicine or apply a cream in order to completely rid yourself of the unpleasant effects. However, poison ivy treatment for symptoms, which includes swelling, rashes and blisters, can be found easily in a variety of methods, from over-the-counter creams and lotions to homemade remedies with everyday household items.

The nagging itch and red rash are caused by the urushiol oil in the poison ivy. Urushiol is pale yellow in color when it is in the sap of the plant, but once it is exposed to oxygen it changes to a brownish blackish color. Some people are more sensitive to it than others are, and this sensitivity to the urushiol can develop at any time. Remember to wash all your clothing and bedding to ensure that you wash off any remaining urushiol which may still be stuck to these items, because if you come into contact with this oil again you will restart the allergic reaction.

Diagnosing a Poison Ivy Rash

Most home treatments are relatively harmless should you diagnose yourself correctly. You should, however, make sure that your rash is indeed from poison ivy before you start any self-medicating. The affects can be characterised by a red itchy rash with small red bumps which will usually appear in a straight line or streaks from where you brushed up against the plant. Swelling may occur and later, larger blisters will form.

Understanding where poison ivy grows is an important step to diagnosing your symptoms. The two maps below are a quick reference to the distribution patterns of the two most common forms of poison ivy found in the United States. Both the images below are courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture. Follow the links for more information about State specific distribution. The treatment options for both Eastern and Western poison ivy are the same.

Eastern Poison IvyWestern Poison Ivy

Different Approaches to Healing

A treatment that works for one person may not work for the other, so the answer to a poison ivy cure is to determine what works for you and brings you soothing relief. Most remedies for poison ivy are aimed at providing relief from the symptoms brought on by the urushiol, but even the very best poison ivy treatments for blisters are not able to eliminate the symptoms altogether in the space of a week. Urushiol truly is a potent toxin; it takes just a small amount to cause a rash and itch, and requires a considerable amount of time to achieve relief from it.

The amount of exposure to the poison ivy, as well as which body parts were exposed, will determine the severity of the reaction you experience. The lips, eyes and genitals are far more sensitive to the poison ivy as compared to the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands.

Embrace Conventional or Complementary Medicine


In events such as this, it is important to bear in mind that everyone reacts differently to certain medications. It may be helpful to get advice from someone who has endured this rash before, but be mindful that their remedy may not work as quickly for you. Healing is a process, and each person chooses a different path to good health. Some may choose herbalism, others homeopathy, and others prefer conventional medicine, but in everything, check the label and take the correct dosage, and if your condition does not improve, consult a doctor. Many complementary therapies are based on Oriental philosophies that focus on vital forces or energies present in nature. Its aim is to empower people to take responsibility for their own health and to treat themselves in an attempt to heal.

Complementary medicine is greatly used for a poison ivy cure and is effective in treating allergies, since the symptoms are not suppressed and the root cause is treated. Allergies are often the body’s natural reaction to a foreign substance in the environment, and the body responds by producing histamine in an attempt to attack the unwanted substance. Histamine is responsible for constricting bronchial airways, causing difficulty with breathing and congestion in the respiratory tract. It also dilates blood vessels, which causes redness and inflammation. Itching of the skin and pain are also caused by too much histamine.

Conventional Medical Poison Ivy Treatment

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For some people, exposure to poison ivy can cause a little bit of discomfort for a number of days, but for others it can cause a range of severe allergic complications. The standard treatment for poison ivy is over-the-counter creams and lotions or steroid treatments.

Headaches, fever, nausea, dehydration, swollen eyes and aching glands can be so severe that a doctor has to be consulted, and they may recommend the following as a poison ivy cure:

  • Corticosteroid medication. These are known as anti-inflammatory drugs because they help with decreasing swelling in the airways of the lungs. Some corticosteroid medicines include cortisone and prednisone.
  • Prednisone is an oral corticosteroid used for suppressing the immune system and inflammation. These corticosteroids are not the norm for poison ivy sufferers but are used to treat more severe cases of poison ivy rashes, like when the blisters become infected or when the rash covers a large part of the body. Of course they need to be used under the supervision of your doctor. Your doctor may in any case prescribe oral steroids if you are possibly being treated for another medical condition. There is no doubt that oral steroids can help to reduce the rash and associated itching quickly and effectively.
  • Benadryl is an over-the-counter oral antihistamine poison ivy cure and starts to work within half an hour or so. It has been used for many years to treat allergic aliments and there is no need for a prescription. It is available in a number of generic forms and causes drowsiness, but this is seen as a perk because the nasty symptoms of poison ivy may keep you awake. So with Benadryl, you can at least expect a good night’s rest.
  • Hydrocortisone cream is just another example of a cream that can be bought at the store or you can have it prescribed if you need a stronger strength.
  • Bacitracin is the active ingredient in an antibacterial ointment which can be bought over the counter for the treatment of skin infections. When blisters become infected, medical care is needed. Treatment can include puncturing the larger blisters with a sterilized needle to release the build up of fluid and then applying an antibacterial ointment like Bacitracin. But consult your doctor before attempting to pop any blisters, because if this is done at the wrong time, you could be doing more harm than good.
  • Calamine is a popular skin treatment lotion because of its soothing properties. With poison ivy rashes, the blood vessels develop gaps that leak fluid through the skin, and this is what causes the blisters and the oozing. The calamine lotions cool the skin, and the blood vessels constrict, preventing them from oozing as much. You can apply it three or four times a day for relief and it also prevents your clothes from sticking to your rash.
  • Witch Hazel, Burow’s Solution, and zinc oxide are other effective skin soothers which contain alcohol, and this aides in drying out the blisters. Native Americans used witch hazel all those years ago for inflammatory skin conditions since it is a good drying agent and will reduce the itch and swelling while promoting healing.

Homeopathic Poison Ivy Cures

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It is understandable that many people may want to avoid conventional treatments and the possible use of steroids, and claim that with the use of homeopathic remedies like Zanfel Hyland’s Poison Ivy Tabs, they are able to conduct everyday life normally again in just a couple of days. The homeopathic approach to skin issues is to cure from the inside out, with the aim being to bring the body into balance. A skilled homeopathic practitioner will choose a remedy that alleviates the symptoms as well. Some of the well-known homeopathic remedies prescribed for skin rashes and other skin ailments include Belladonna, Silicea, and Sulphur. Available in creams and pill form, these treatments are excellent for relieving itching and they also work well for insect bites and stings.

Build Your Immune System

Having a good, strong immune system is not going to prevent you from an encounter with poison ivy, but it can help you to cope far better than someone with a weakened immune system. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, and taking in a good dose of it helps to build up your immune system. Vitamin C provides protection against viral infection by strengthening connective tissue and neutralizing toxic substances released by phagocytes. Phagocytes are components of the body’s immunity, and are cells that can phagocytose foreign microbes, using enzymes to break down these foreign microbes. Vitamin C has been an anti-allergy remedy for many people, and research confirms that vitamin C is antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer.

Exposure to poison ivy can be dangerous for some people, particularly those who already have a weakened immune system. If the throat starts to close, you have severe headaches, or your eyes become puffy and swollen, it may become necessary to call a doctor. Sometimes something as simple as applying a cold compresses for about 20 minutes at time and a few times during the day can bring relief.

Severe Poison Ivy Treatment

If your poison ivy symptoms seem severe you should see your physician, or even get to the nearest emergency room facility if the situation calls for it. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, can develop that can be fatal if medical intervention is not received. If poison ivy is burned and the smoke is inhaled, damage to your lungs, sinuses, and other areas may cause complications very quickly, and these cases should also receive medical treatment as soon as possible. If the rash is severe, or on sensitive areas such as genitals or the face, you should again, seek medical help, and be extremely careful not to use anything which can further irritate or damage the skin.

Soothing, Cool Relief from Skin Rashes

Many people will tell you that the best external home remedy for poison ivy is aloe vera. The itching, pain and swelling that follows contact with poison ivy can be alleviated by applying aloe vera to the area, and this also works for other types of skin rashes, such as eczema, as well as insect bites. Before leaving for the countryside, you can even make your own aloe vera mixture by blending some leaves and water together; blend it fine enough so that you can keep it in a misting spray bottle. Expect a wonderful soothing and cooling experience when you spray this on the affected area, especially if you are able to keep the bottle in a cool bag when hiking, or in a fridge when at home. On top of that, the aloe vera can also help with preventing infection; this is due to its powerful antibacterial properties. The aloe plant houses some amazing minerals in it, some of which are amino acids, essential oils, enzymes, vitamins and much more. Acemannan is also found in the aloe, and this boosts the body’s immune system because it increases the number of T-cells which assist the body’s natural resistance. Aloe vera extracts and gels can be found in health stores and online.

Get to Know What Poison Ivy Looks Like

The best defence and cure for poison ivy is, of course, to avoid it, so learn how to recognize the plants and be aware that they can grow as vines or shrubs. They can be spotted by their characteristic cluster of three pointed leaves. The leaves are shiny and the berries are green/yellow in color. Recognition is of particular importance for those people who love to be out in the countryside, camping and hiking. As a regular camper and hiker, you should already know that going into the great outdoors makes you fair game for a myriad of stinging insects as well as noxious plants like the poison ivy. If you are uncertain as to whether you will come across the plant or not, wear protective clothing, and if you are caught off guard, try to rinse off the affected area as quickly as possible to rid yourself of the plant’s toxic resin.

The leaves may come in various sizes, and do not always look the same. However, they will always be grouped in a cluster of three. When in doubt, remember this: “Leaves of three, let them be”.

There are barrier lotions that exist which are easily obtainable as over-the-counter medications. These sorts of lotions form a coat on the skin which stops the urushiol from causing such a severe reaction. Do not be taken in by the myth ingesting the leaves and berries of the poison ivy will make you immune from the nasty symptoms of a brush up with poison ivy, as this is a myth. Never be tempted to sample any wild plants when you are not knowledgeable on the subject, as you could find yourself worse off, or maybe even fighting for your life.

The Poison Ivy Cure

Although this reaction will be a very unpleasant one to say the least, you can find solace in the fact that there are a number of treatments easily available to you to combat and soothe the allergic symptoms. As with all medication, read the label to ensure that you are not allergic to any substance which it contains, as you will not want to add to your discomfort. And if you feel that your reaction is not a normal one, do not hesitate to consult with a doctor.