A rash caused by
poison ivy, oak, or sumac may itch and produce
blisters. Try the following suggestions and medicines to help relieve these
Although the rash does not spread through blister
fluid, try not to scratch blisters. Scratching may cause a
compresses or soak the area in cool water for 15 to 30 minutes several times a
day. Do this for 1 to 4 days until the itching and blistering improve.
Compresses or soaking water may include:
Baking soda. Add baking soda to water to make a
solution for a wet compress, or mix it with water into a paste and then apply
the paste to the rash.
Vinegar mixed with water.
Burow's solution (aluminum acetate).
Apply as a compress during the blistering stage. Be sure to stop using this solution if any
Take short, cool baths with or without an oatmeal
additive (such as Aveeno).
Wear cotton or silk clothing. Avoid
wearing wool and acrylic fabrics next to your skin.
Use as little soap as possible. Use gentle soaps, such as Basis,
Cetaphil, Dove, or Oil of Olay. Avoid deodorant soaps when you have the
Avoid dry skin, which makes the itching caused by the rash
worse. Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp.
Watch closely for excessive drying, which may occur when calamine lotion is
used for an extended period. For more information, see the topic Dry Skin and
Medicines that relieve itching include:
antihistamine pills or tablets such as Benadryl
(diphenhydramine) and prescription antihistamine pills such as
Vistaril (hydroxyzine). These medicines may cause drowsiness. Talk to your
doctor before you use these medicines. And do not drive while taking them. The
form of Benadryl you spread on your skin may cause another allergic reaction
and should not be used.
hydrocortisone products, such as Cortaid, Caldecort, or Lanacort, that you spread on your skin. These products should only be
used in mild cases, usually after the affected area has been soaked in water or
a compress has been applied. Although safe, these products are not recommended
for treating poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash, because they are not strong enough
and may not be used long enough to be effective. They may seem to work for a
while, but the rash often suddenly flares up again, sometimes worse than before.
Medicines that dry out oozing blisters include:
Zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, or zinc
If you have a severe rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac, talk to
your doctor. You may need prescription
Do NOT use the following medicines. They may
increase sensitization and/or cause more skin problems:
Antihistamines applied to the skin, such as diphenhydramine (found in Benadryl cream, spray, or gel). The oral form of Benadryl may be
containing benzocaine (such as Lanacane) that
are applied to the skin.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.