Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Relieving the Itch

Topic Overview

A rash caused by poison ivy, oak, or sumac may itch and produce blisters.

Mild to moderate rash

If you get a mild rash, you can take care of it at home. Here are some tips to help with itching:

  • Apply a cool, wet cloth for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day.
  • Take short, cool baths with or without an oatmeal additive (such as Aveeno).
  • Use calamine lotion to help relieve itching. Use it for just the first week or so since longer use can dry your skin and make the rash worse.
  • Try not to scratch blisters. Scratching may cause a skin infection.

If you have trouble sleeping because of the itching, taking diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help.

Some home care medicines applied to the skin can make the rash worse, rather than help. These include topical antihistamines like Benadryl cream, topical antibiotics like Neosporin, and topical anesthetics like Lanacane.

Severe rash

See your doctor if:

  • The rash covers a large area of your body.
  • Your symptoms are severe.

Your doctor may treat your rash with prescription corticosteroid pills, creams, or shots.

Related Information

Credits

Current as ofApril 17, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine