Natural Remedies for Poison Ivy & Poison Oak

Cool the burn of poison ivy and poison oak with these natural home remedies…

Summer is the season for outdoor activities, and if you’re hiking, biking, or working outdoors in any kind of wooded or brushy area, it’s likely that you may be exposed to poison ivy or poison oak. For most people, the allergic reaction to these plants is not severe enough to seek medical attention, but it can still be quite unpleasant.

Symptoms of exposure include a red, itchy rash, swelling, and sometimes blisters. (Contrary to popular opinion, the fluid from these blisters is not contagious.) The rash is caused by an oil called urushiol, which is found in the flowers, leaves, stem, and roots of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

If you are aware that you have been exposed, the best thing to do (after removing any clothing that may also have touched the plants) is to wash all exposed areas of skin immediately using cold water and plenty of soap. (Warm water may actually open the pores, allowing the oils from the plants to seep into your skin.) I also like to use baking soda, which seems every effective at removing the oils. Simply wet your skin with cold water, liberally rub with baking soda all over, then rinse off thoroughly with cold water.

However, if you still end up with an outbreak, there are several natural remedies that you can use to help reduce the swelling and itching without having to resort to over-the-counter medications or prescription corticosteroids. Untreated poison ivy or poison oak outbreaks should heal by themselves within one to three weeks, but using a combination of the following suggestions may help your body to heal faster and relieve the pain and itching.

Note: If you experience a severe or widespread rash, you have a fever of over 100 degrees F., the rash affects the area on or around your eyes, genitals or mouth, or if your rash does not improve within a few weeks, you should seek medical attention.

Try these tips from for natural relief from the symptoms of poison ivy or poison oak:

Itching and inflammation: Cold compresses or soaking the area in a lukewarm oatmeal bath may help reduce the inflammation and soothe your skin. Consider using oatmeal in a container accommodating the entire area or take an oatmeal bath. Filter the water as it leaves the tub or pour the fluid down the garbage disposal from a small basin used to soak an area of your body, so it doesn’t clog your drain.

Baking soda in a lukewarm bath is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to soothe the skin and reduce the inflammation. The inside of a banana peel or watermelon rind may also help reduce the itch from the rash. Calamine lotion or capsaicin cream may help to reduce itching.

Dairy products, such as buttermilk or yogurt applied to your skin (unless you have a dairy allergy) may help draw the fluid from your blisters. Soak in the tub with tepid water for 20 minutes with 12 chamomile tea bags to reduce the itchiness and uncomfortable feelings on your skin. Consider brewing black tea or dark-brewed coffee and dab the cooled liquid on your rash with a cotton ball every few hours.

Do NOT scratch: The rash is very itchy, but you must refrain from scratching as much as possible. Bacteria under your nails may trigger a skin infection and scratching increases the damage to your skin and the potential for scarring. If the blisters from the rash do break open, leave them alone and covered to prevent infection.

Reduce the reaction: A paste of bentonite clay and water covering the area where you first notice the contact dermatitis may reduce the reaction your skin experiences, and therefore your symptoms. Bentonite is a natural clay found at your local health food store.

Speed healing: Soak a paper bag in apple cider vinegar and lay it across the rash. If you cool the apple cider vinegar first it will also help to reduce the itch as the vinegar helps to speed healing of the rash.

Cool the burning: One of the symptoms of contact dermatitis from poison ivy is a burning sensation over the rash area. The gel from an aloe vera plant may help to cool the burn from the rash in much the same way it helps soothe a sunburn.



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