Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center

From the Kitchen

Signs of an Emergency
About 15 percent of the 120 million Americans who are allergic to poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are so highly sensitive that they break out in a rash and begin to swell in 4 to 12 hours instead of the normal 24 to 48. Their eyes may swell shut and blisters may erupt on their skin. This is one of the few true emergencies in dermatolgy says William L. Epstein, MD. Get to a hosipital as soon as possible. A shot of corticosteroids will bring the swelling down.
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As for susceptibility to PI, you may not know that spring honey in the areas where it grows is usually loaded with PI pollen. I believe that regular use of raw, local, spring honey has rendered me immune to the effects of the sap. I worked in apple orchards for many years, with frequent, almost constant problems with poison ivy. When I began keeping bees and eating honey every day, I no longer was affected by poison ivy. It has been many years since I've had any reaction at all, though I sometimes walk right thru the stuff.
-- Dave Green ([email protected]) submitted May/1/2000 The Pollination Home Page


Baking Soda

If you take a bath in room temperature water mixed with 1/2 cup of baking soda it can releive the itching. The baking soda is like oatmeal bath that you would find at the drug store however the baking soda is cheaper and everyone has it in their house. However, if you use normal temperature bath water the itching will not stop at all. This method is on the back of many baking soda boxes that you can find at your super market
-- Chris Whitehead ([email protected]) submitted May/31/2000

I realized that if you take a bath w/ 1/2 cup baking soda and you put your poison ivy rashes under the facuet and start off with warn water and then slowly bring it upto a point where you can least stand it will out burning you it will simulate 20-25 minutes of scratching without breaking the skin or causing o ozing it also causes the urishiol to somewhat release from the cell and wash out ...so a day or so later the rash starts clearing up
-- Dan ([email protected]) submitted 10/Sep/2000

It doesn't last very long, but put a paste made out of baking soda and water on it. I've been told that as the baking soda dries, it pulls out the toxins, same for bee/wasp/etc. stingers too (mud will work for stingers too)
[email protected] submitted 16/Jul/2001

Well, My husband got poison oak 2 days ago and since I'm 6m pregnet, I was worried about getting it. Then I had him try a oatmeal & baking soda pack that I fixed up in about 5 mins. I just took oatmeal and baking soda and blended them up w/ hot water. It needs to be thick. Let it dry all the way, then wash off by taking a hot shower. It seems to have worked wonders. =)
--"Sarah" (no email provided) submitted 13/Apr/2002

I get poison ivy every year from loving on my cats, either on my wrists or my neck. Normally, I use the rubbing alcohol method & Rhuli-gel. This year has been the worst I've ever had. I bought the wrong spray, Calamine, which relieves the itch only temporary & doesn't help in the long run. I finally took a Benadryl pill overnight, & seemed to be better the next day. Hot water always helps temporarily. But after reading through this site, I tried a baking soda paste & had such wonderful relief. After about 20 min, it began to flake off. So I sprayed it off with scalding hot water. The rash actually looks better already. You can bet the 1st thing I'll do tomorrow morning is make a baking soda paste again.
--"Cindy chapman" ([email protected]) submitted 15/Aug/2002

Hello, I am Shawn I am 15 years old and I have gotten Poison Ivy twice in my live and I have figured out a way to get rid of it fast. What you do is you mix baking soda with vinegar which reacts and then makes a paste. Than take a wash cloth and scrub the paste as hard as you can on there, it will hurt!!!, But I will also solve it fast Thank you Shawn
[email protected] submitted 13/Jun/2003

hey shawn thanks. the vinigar and baking soda paste works good. i used it and within minutes the itch was gone. i would recommend this to anyone. it doesn't hurt much but u will most likely bleed from scrubbing hard just make sure you srub as hard as you can.
--"mark" [email protected] submitted 22/Jul/2003


Oatmeal Paste

The best thing I have found for poison ivy is very warm to hot oatmeal. Cook it a little thicker than you would for eating(you don't want it running all over). Spread the oatmeal with a rubber spatula(like for spreading cake icing). The heat from the oatmeal really helps, the oatmeal is gritty and itches the rash for you, and as the oatmeal cools off it drys out the skin and affected area better than any other product I have tried. It feels likes cement drying aroung your arm. The only downsides I have seen to this is that your spouse WILL laugh at you as your pasting oatmeal to yourself in the kitchen, and this is probably something you wouldn't want to do at work. BE SURE THE OATMEAL IS NOT TOO HOT FOR YOUR SKIN, it is best that it is warm to hot, but you do not want to burn yourself either.
-- Jason (@NOSPAMaol.com) Nov/17/1999

My husband and I were cleaning out my mother's yard and she kept telli ng me to be careful because there was poison ivy there. I, of course, knew it w ouldn't bother me. Wrong! It started small and spread like a demon. I tried a lot of different things, but since we were at the beach, I found that dunking m yself in the ocean and then baking in the sun worked great. I didn't itch the w hole time I was on the beach. I also tried an oatmeal bath followed by Caladryl Lotion and a Benadryl chaser. I don't know whether the rash was just ready to go away or one of these three worked a miracle, but the next day it was consider ably improved. Poison Ivy is truly the work of the devil!!
-- Barb Boylan ([email protected]) submitted 12/Sep/2000

I once again suffer from poison oak, and I thought that I would share something that seems to help. I have used Desitin diaper rash ointment (the stuff that you put on babies' bottoms) for the last few years and it seems to work as well as the Benadryl cream and is a somewhat cheaper and widely available. With an oatmeal bath and a coating of Desitin, I can get relief for several hours. Good Luck to you All!
-- Marina Morrow ([email protected]) submitted 7/Nov/2000

I have found that mixing one pack instant oatmeal with a tablespoon of baking soda with near hot water, spreading it on the affected area and wrapping it in Saran wrap works best. It soothes the itch, clears the rash and the saran wrap keeps the paste from getting all over the place as well as keeping that soothing warmth going a little longer.
--"Christine Furtado" ([email protected]) submitted 7/Jul/2003

I've had poison ivy so badly that at one time I was hospitalized (after walking through smoke when a neighbor burned some with leaves).  At the time, Ivytox was on the market and it worked miracles.  In later years, I've made a paste of oatmeal and water and plastered myself with it, wrapping gauze to keep down the mess it makes when drying.  This really relieves the itching and dries it up beautifully.  If the gauze sticks to the skin and/or blisters that have run, get in the shower and let it soak off then wash off with brown soap, or soak in a tub with Aveeno oatmeal.
--"Merit Heart & Allyana Ziolko" ([email protected]) submitted 05/Aug/2003



Plain o'l white vinegar, worked for me just fine. It will sting a bit, the itch was gone in minutes. Re-apply as the itch reappears until its gone, usually in a few days.
-- J.R. ([email protected]) submitted Apr/1/2000

A friend's grandmother eliminated the simptoms of poison ivy using warm vinagar on the blisters. I have tried this and many other remedies, including the over-the-counter products and found that a combination of warm vinagar compresses, three to four times a day, and an application of caladril (not sure of the spelling) lotion at night have been the most effective. system, or just the acid in it. But it work's. Passed down from 3 generations.
-- Gary Christopher ([email protected]) submitted 26/Jun/2001

I have found that applying White Distilled Vinegar to the affected area(s) several times daily will relieve the itching as well as dry it up. Additional tips - Mosquito Bites: rub the juice of a cut onion on it and it will stop the itching and disappear within an hour. Insect Bites: make a paste from white distilled vinegar and meat tenderizer and apply to the affected area.
[email protected] submitted 26/Sep/2002

It sounds goofy, but when I was a kid we were told to rub vinegar and salt on the poison ivy on your arm or leg. It hurt but once it took effect it cooled down the itching.
--"Vince G" ([email protected]) submitted 16/Jun/2003

Hey I was just searching for new ways to get rid of my poison ivy faster. I mixed red and white vinegar and dumped it all over it and that healed it last time. Bleach does make it go away just not right away, also for my pool we use chlorine tablets (size of a hockey puck) and I got them wet and rubbed it on the ivy and let sit for 2-5 mins and that helped a little.
--"Todd" ([email protected]) submitted 26/July/2003


Banana Peel

Try the inside of a banana peel, this usually helps a bit more if the sores have been broken, but it drys up the ivy's effects rather quickly with continuous use and if the sores are kept clean. Just peel a banana and smear the inside of the peel on the affected area, and bingo, then repeat about 2 to 3 times a day.
--"D. R. Pinson" ([email protected]) submitted 13/Jul/2000

To get relief from the itch, rub the inside of a banana skin on it, and it works, I got that from Foxfire book.
--Edgar Brindle ([email protected]) submitted 14/May/2001

I have been a leader of Girl Scouts for 23 years and know what poison looks like and what the rash looks like when you get it. I have not had it for many years and recently got a very itchy rash on the inside of my thighs. I was not in the woods or around any plants but my dog rubbed against me and I think I got it from the dog's fur. I am a swimming instructor and was concerned that my students may get it from me so I went to the Dr for advice. She said the pool would help dry it up and that I would not give it to my students. She also gave me $65 worth of perscriptions. I did not fill them. My husband had heard of a treatment of toothpaste. I found that his TOOTHPASTE had BAKING SODA in it and I rubbed it on before going to bed. In the morning I washed it off and I did not itch as much. It looked better too. I then read this site for help. I tried the banana skins and it cleared it right up. Only 3 days of itching and I am all better. Thanks.
--Bev ([email protected]) submitted 28/July/2003


Miracle Whip

Miracle Whip will remove the oil, but don't use it more than 2 times a week. Put a teaspoonfull on the affected area, spread it around and leave it a few minutes. Then wash it off with Dawn Dishwashing liquid (or Zanfel). After that, use whatever remedy you have for drying it up. Benadryl cream, steroid ointment, or whatever. Also, on the really hot spots, try ice packs, especially at night. This works.
--Anonymous submitted 1/Jun/2001


From the Freezer

I find that frozen vegetables in a bag when laid over the infected area reduces the itch incredibly.

--"Rich" ([email protected]) submitted 15/Jul/2001


Butter Milk

Sounds silly, I know, but it works! This morning, I itched so badly I could hardly stand it, tried all the cortisone creams and ointments, which help just a bit. In desperation, I thought about a household ingredient that I use for intestinal problems, for soothing burns and reasoned, why not. Buttermilk!! Yep, the good bacteria stuff some of us southerners drink. I dabbed it on, itching stopped immediately, has been 2 hours now, no itching. I can reuse it as needed, no side effects. Hey, if it works, I am elated.
--"bkeel" ([email protected]) submitted 24/Mar/2002

I too have become infected with the irritating poison Ivy and found that by putting buttermilk in the hottest bath water that you could stand provided great relief for me while I was sleeping. I also had cream from the Doctor which cleared it up within 14 days. Regards, Infected.
--"BROAD, Rodney C." ([email protected]) submitted 12/Aug/2002


Pectin and Orange Juice

My wife and friends seem to to be plagued with poison oak suseptabilty, I thank God I have become immune to it's wrath and rash. I feel my own immunity is do to faith, in that I actually believe I won't get it and if I do feel an itch Do Not Touch it. Tell yourself the itch will soon go away and it does.This advice worked on my children but not my wife and some friends. My children do not suffer from poisen oak, occassionaly my son gets a small bump as I have, but it soon disapears. Poison oak has been a huge problem for me because my wife has been infected from my clothing or my body numerous times.I've had to come home, go right to the laundry room to strip , put clothes in the washer, and head straight to the shower, before she quit getting it. I really to to hike around the woods , but so many peaple are afraid to go with me for fear of being infected. My friends and wife would refuse to go many places with me because of this fear. It became my problem even though it doesn't bother me at all (I can wallow in it). Prefering to hike with company I decided to question others for a cure, as my 'Mind Power' cure that I believe worked for me and my children doesn't seem to work for everyone. So here it is, a cure as told to me by a forest ranger at Star Ranger Station, Ashland or. Who had a son that used to be so sensitive to the stuff he had to be hospitalized numerous times after encountering the beast. He (sorry I don't recall his name) told me someone (don't know their name either)told him to mix a packet of Pectin (used for canning jam and jelly) into a large pither of Orange Juice made from frozen concentrate and drink it through the week. I thought , wow how easy! The problem is My wife and friends are stubborn and I've had to praactically force my wife to try it. I've bought the ingredients and must make it for her ( you'd think they be dying to try such a simple, harmless,and cheap potential remedy!) Well so far so good! After several weeks of getting her to drink the concoction ( which tastes just like Pure Orange Juice) she's not gotten but only a few bumps, nothing like the time her face swelled up and she went to the Emergency Room. I believe it's working. Many times just this week, I've been in the thick of it(fresh, spring, Poisen Oak) not bothering to wash up, and She's Not Getting infected! Someone else Please try it and let us Know if it is working for you?Thanks, Rick
--"Rick Stevenson" ([email protected]) submitted 24/Mar/2003



The itching can really drive you nuts. The best cure I know is using Homemade (Brown) Soap. Make a paste of the soap on the patches and leave it dry. When you feel it's gone, do it again. My experience has been that in a few days it's dried up and gone. I just got my first dose for the first time in a lot of years. I forgot what I drag it is.
--"Karen Wolfe" ([email protected]) submitted 2/Sep/2002



Cucumber! So simple,so effective.Just slice a piece off, wipe it on and let dry.Relieves itch and you should be getting better in a week. Apply often .
--"Eddy van H." ([email protected]) submitted 30/Sep/2002



About 2 weeks ago I was pulling weeds and ended up with poison ivy. I had nothing to use the first couple of days, them got some camomille. It helped a little, but didn't completely stop the itch. It just made it bearabe. Then, I decided to check online to see what I could find. I found a lot of suggestions on your site. The first one I tried yesterday was the hot water. I did it about 11am. I was itch free until bedtime. I still wasn't itching, so went to bed. About 1:30am I woke up itching bad. I didn't want to run the shower and possibly wake someone up and didn't feel like making any of the pastes that had been suggested. We had some bananas, so thought I would try that. At this time I have a little itch, but nothing I can't stand. It started about 8pm. The banana had worked for nearly 18 hours. I am getting ready to go to bed and will use the banana before I do. So far, that has worked the longest for me.
--"Bonnie" ([email protected]) submitted 10/Oct/2002

I tried the banana, and I have been itch free all day and the sores look drier. I just rubbed the inside of the skin on my arm. Thanks
--"lorraine" ([email protected]) submitted 1/Jun/2003


Oatmeal, Clorine Paste

I've recently broke out with a bad case of pi. I've always used the ol'calamine lotion, but this bout needed more than that. That's when I visited your web site to see if there was anything I could make around the house to help releave some of the symptoms. I mixed about a cup of water, 2 tbsp of chlorine, a cup of oatmeal, and about 2 dashes of salt together and boiled it. I spread the mix on my wounds, and let it dry, while the mix was still hot. Afterwards I took a shower with hot water. I rubed my sores with rubbing alcohol then put calamine lotion on them...seems like a lot to do, but it imediatly soothed my itching. Also try benadryl alergy pills. All of this does really help. Try it!
--"katy" ([email protected]) submitted 24/May/2003


Maple Syrup

I live in Canada, so naturally I spend a lot of time in the woods. I get poison ivy regularly, and mostly just suffer through it, (We Canadians are tough people). But this time I needed help, it was a really painful case of pi. Now this is an old Canadian secret, but I will fill you nice Americans in on it. Maple syrup! But none of that cheap American stuff, it has to been 100% Pure for it to work.
--"Adam " ([email protected]) submitted 2/Jun/2003
Editor: You know I am Canadian too eh? Never heard of this one. But I certainly have some Rogers around. Thanks I'll have to try that one.



I'm sitting here right now typing with one hand because I can't bend the fingers on the other hand.It's to swollen up from poison sumac. My knuckles are no longer in sight. My face looks like a rubber monster mask. All my life (53 years) every summer the dreaded weed finds me. I am so careful but still... When I see it in the yard I spray paint it till it can be ripped up by someone else who doesn't have a reaction to it. I was thinking this time about using a Scumbuster and Drano to get rid of the itch, just kidding. I have tried to explain to people how bad the itch but unless you've had the experience they don't "get it". I tell people that pain it preferable to the itch. Like I said it's hard to understand and to describe how this itch is different from say a bajillion mosquitoes bites. And when people say (and I know you've all heard this)"don't scratch it",well this late in life I pay no mind to that now, but use to be when folks said that to me whilst watching me rend my flesh into bloody strips I wasn't as tolerant. Anyway after I the chucked the Drano/Scumbuster notion I had an idea. Last year I bought a product that has been mentioned elsewhere on this site.It was exorbitantly expensive 17$ for a teeny weeny tube and for me not as good as I wanted it to be. One thing however the grit was good. Now in the past I had used Ajax but the grit was to fine. So I thought - Kosher salt.I Mean they used salt to dry mummies certainly it could dry up p.s. I made a paste using liquid dish soap,kosher salt and of course the hottest water I could stand.For 3 days now I have been using it and while I still look hideous had I not use it I would be much worse. And over the long, long years I have tried everything.I Realize this isn't science, it's antidotal but it's working for me so I don't care.Speaking of science (this is off the path)why oh why hasn't medical science come up with a balm,salve,lotion,cream,ointment,pill or shot that will cure this crud or at least make the itch really and truly sto p.All of you know that even when the rash is calm it's always on the surface just waiting for a stray hair to brush against you face or your arm ever so gently to touch the furniture to make it come alive and put you right on the edge of maniacal. One more thing. I tried all the salts,rock - to big,sea salt and Morton's - to little. Kosher,for me,was the best size crystal. I hope this helps someone. I know you need it.
--"Carol Batts" ([email protected]) submitted 9/Jun/2003

Well, last year I got it 4 times but not real bad and only on my legs and arms. This year so far only one time but I got it on my "privates" no where else. Went to the doctor, he prescibed prednisone. Looked it up on the net, too many possible side effects for me. The solution; Hot Bathes with about a cup of "sea salt" for 20 min. Every 4 to 6 hours, followed each time by an application of Ivarest. Active ingredients; Calamine & Diphenhydraine Hydrochloride (2%) I normally abstain from chemical drugs but it did work. I was completely healed in 6 days, in the past it has lasted weeks. I did also change my diet no coffee or alcohol for that week and included more foods with Lysine in them, took vitamins lots of C,E,Bs also cal/mag pills, goat yogart. Good Luck everyone I know your pain.
--"Andy" ([email protected]) submitted 21/Jun/2003


Saran Wrap

This is sounds silly but it works if you go get Cortaid Cream and wrap the infected area with saran wrap real tight real tight it will go away. When the infected area begins to sweat the poison ivy or oak opens up and the cream gets in the poison and clears it up.
--"Brittany" (no email provided) submitted 24/Jun/2003