Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center

Miscellaneous Suggestions

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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When I was growing up in Oregon, my buddies and I were always getting poison oak rashes. One friend was covered so severely his parents had to seek medical attention. My father's "cure" was to "wash" us thoroughly in a blast of oxygen from one of his oxyacetylene cutting torches. I have no idea why it worked, but we both recovered rapidly. I was around 6 at the time and do not remember if we were "treated" again in this manner.
[email protected] submitted 18/Jul/2000

Interesting to see the Oregon Oxygen cure on your page. I heard of that one when I moved to Oregon. The other one I heard of in Oregon, that I still use,is Manzanita. Break up a branch, leaves,stem,etc, and put in boiling water. Let it cool and put liquid in in a spray bottle and spray on the infection until it dries up, usually in a day. The other tip I heard about poison oak is that if you are burning brush piles that may contain poison oak, be careful about staying there and breathing the fumes
--"george eglinton" ([email protected]) submitted 17/Oct/2001



An effective antidote for poison ivy can be found in the soil surrounding the roots of the plant.My friend Nahanee tried this out for adventure's sake. She deliberately rubbed the plant all over her arm. She then rubbed that same area vigorously with the soil which was surrounding the roots of that same plant. Although Nahanee is normally subject to poison ivy outbreaks, she left this little scientific adventure unscathed.
-- Jennifer ([email protected]) Submitted 10/Aug/2000
Editor: I guess the dirt is used to rub off the oil before it bonds to the skin??? But what if you spread "new" oil on?

I have just returned from a backpacking trip in the canyons of Arizona, where to my surprise, poision ivy and oak are plentyful. After hiking through a huge patch of the stuff, my group and I proceded to the water to rinse off - after a thurough scrub with sand and water we thought we would be safe. The next day however - youch! I was bubbling with a huge patch on my chest. A friend told me to rub some 1thick mud on the area and let it dry and stay for the day. I was quite impressed when the cooling and drying of the mud helped to alieveate the itch, and within a few days of using thick canyon mud - my poision ivy had dried up to just a few scabs.
[email protected] submitted 29/Sep/2001



I just had to put in my two cents with my highly unorthadox but very effective poison oak cure method...Over the years I have had moderate to severe reactions to poison oak. I have tried Cortaid and Benedryl and various other ointments with limited success. In reality the lesions would remain on my skin for two weeks of unremitting suffering. My dermatologist recommended a Cortizone shot which I did receive and found it effective, but not good for my health.
Several years ago, after a very complete exposure which resulted in lesions all over my face and arms and resisting the urge to scratch the lesions for several days. I finally decided to try a revolutionary treatment which I found to be very effective at both greatly reducing the itching and eliminating the infection within a day or two...After hearing the advice from everyone that scratching the lesions would spread the infection i decided that there must be some oil on the surface of my skin that was causing the concern about the spreading of the infection...So, I reasoned that if i could at least remove the oil that remains on the surface of my skin I would be on the right road to eliminating the rash...So I went in the shower and took some dishwashing detergent and scratched the lesions under hot water...Not only did it feel great, but the itching went away and the lesions looked noticeably better the next day. But the itching returned so i took another shower and repeated the scratching with detergent technique...I again felt much relieved, and this time i put on some talcom powder to absorb any fluid that leaked out of the lesions...It helped to dry out the sores and soak up any oil remaining in the skin.....By noon time the itching had returned and i repeated the scratching technique.....again relief ensued...so by that evening when i repeated the process, i could see major improvement in the lesions....The next morning they were almost gone!!!!!
Several times I have had to repeat the process and it always works ...I no longer fear poison oak...In fact as strange as this sounds it feels really good to scratch the lesion and know that by scratching it is making it go away...
So, if I know I may have been exposed to the evil oak, I take a shower with any type of detergent or technu etc....this prevents any infection and I have never had any problem...If the rash results, due to my failing to remove it from the skin in time, I then begin the above described scratch technique....
I know it sounds unorthodox, but everyone I have recommended it to have become a believer....It really works and it is very enjoyable to really scratch into the lesions. Remember you must always use a detergent when doing this method to help remove the oil from the three layers of skin......
I recommend trying it on just one or two of the infected areas to see if it works for you....It sounds counterintuitive but getting that oil out of your skin by scratching it out is the quickest way to remove the offending oil....When the area that has been scratched oozes liquid , that fluid contains minute amounts of the urushiol chemical which is the cause of the rash...So you want to help remove that fluid after scratching with some type of drying powder, even dried "Fells Naptha" soap will work quite well..
--KEN Carlson ([email protected]) submitted 18/Sep/2000
Editor: Be careful as this could cause scaring and infection can happen.

Every summer as a kid I always had a bad reaction to poison ivy. The one year I had it really bad all over my forearms my mother took me outside, sat me in a lawnchair and broke open all the blisters by scraping them rapidly with a wooden popsicle stick. She then poured rubbing alcohol all over my arms and made me sit in the sun for half an hour. I've never forgotten that horrible experience - but it worked. The blisters scabbed that night and were gone in a day and the itching was also gone. This year I am 25 and I thought I had built up an immunity - but suprise, suprise I got it again. A relatively minor case - but I've improved upon my mother's remedy. I open the blisters with a sterile and very sharp piercing needle (anything sterile and sharp will do - or just scratch to your hearts content). I immediately apply a 50% alcohol infusion of witch hazel (steep witch hazel in water and after it cools add alcohol to a 50% solution for preservation). The bli!sters form tiny scabs and stop itching for good within several hours. I apply the alcohol solution every night until they are gone though. I also read on here that tea tree oil helps. I will try applying some after my witch hazel astringent (don't plan on mixing them though - I think they would counter-act each other). I'll let y'all know how it goes.
--"chrissy" ([email protected]) submitted 11/Aug/2001
Editor: Ouch. I think the itch might be better than the cure in this case Chrissy.

Start with baking soda and water paste to area- after this flakes off, apply ice, once numb, put affected area in the hottest water you can tolerate. Repeat as often as possible and this helps the blisters to emerge more quickly- I break the blisters, squeeze out as much of the clear liquid as possible and repeat entire process. To avoid at all risks- I have found that applying a thick layer of any heavy, thick salve to my exposed areas while mowing, etc- seems to hold it at bay- yep- cover your ankles, arms, legs in vaseline if you have nothing else and are headed to any outdoor area where you might come in contact. Dont waste your money on any over the counter prescriptions, Witch hazel mixed with the baking soda is good as well for the paste. Predisone will cause some to gain weight- then you have another problem. Try it it works and is remarkably affordable and portable_ I carry a small baggie with the paste with me at all times- this is war_ be prepared!! Enjoyed the website and like the one person said- reading the possible cures did provide a tad bit of relief. Thanks
--"I FOUND THE CURE" ([email protected]) submitted 1/Jun/2002


Angelic Teaching

Most might think this crazy but I have a friend that channels an angel. The angel Karael karael.com told me that when you get poisen oak etc. not all remedys work for everyone, because it depends on your body type acidic or alkaline. Myself he told me I was alkaline so to not eat rice, vinegar type foods,lemon juices,cider drinks, because these would increase itching. Which was true because I had been consuming all of these and had terrible itching. (Oak)I was to eat all types of green leafy vegtables and all colors of vegtable, also stay away from meat. The poisen Oak likes dark moist places and to put oxygen in the blood stream by consuming Cayenne pepper. I have been working with this the best I can and it seems to be drying up fast. Its been two weeks since I came into contact with the poisen oak. So if it helps find out what body type you are and eat accordingly.
--Josephine M. Ratzlaff ([email protected]) 23/Dec/2000
Editor: Ok :-)


Lead Split Weight

Here is something that Our family and friends have used for years, don't knock it until you do it properly, it has worked on some of the most alergic people I know: Get a lead split weight, the kind one uses to fish with, put it on a string and while you are working in the yard around the poison plants leave it so that it can contact the skin. Now don't start with lead poisoning, the little that is absorbed seems to neutralize the oils and since it is pure lead without chemical additives it probably has less adverse effect than sitting on a park bench with a lead based paint.
-- Gene Thibodeaux ([email protected]) submitted 14/Apr/2001


Sleeping And Crying

I have had many rashes 14 16 in my lifetime. The only thing that I found that helped the itching was sleeping and crying. Right now I have a horrible sumac rash on my face. Am hoping it will not scar Do you know? Happily I have not suffered this time. FIRST IF YOU SHOWER ONLY USE LUKE WARM WATER OTHER WISE IT WILL SPREAD, Use nuetrogena soap it is very mild, wash the area as soon as you notice yourself getting itchy. Use Rhuli ( sold as band aide anti itch creame, near the bottom it says Rhuli. Try this oh one more thing dont contaminate the gel. I pour a small amount into the cover and apply with qtip a new one after each application. I have not cried once. kass
[email protected] submitted 22/May/2001



This is hard to believe, but your own urine wiped on the infected area, and let dry, dries up the poison. You will see results the very next day. But it has to be your own urine, I do not know if it's antibodies built up in your system, or just the acid in it. But it work's. Passed down from 3 generations.
--bob cappelli ([email protected]) submitted 8/Jul/2001

I don't know if this really works, but while battling with the itch of poison oak for the past 13 days, I was reminded of friends of my parents, who insisted that fresh human urine would wash off the oils and stop the itching of poison oak.
-- Wayne Hess ([email protected]) submitted 20/May/2001

I know this will sound crazy but in some cases my mother had told me when my son had got poison oak to put his own urine on it and you know it worked it dried up twice as fast.Everytime he had to potty I put it on the infected area and it worked.
--"Angela" ([email protected]) submitted 13/May/2002

This may sound realy gross but it works. Once poison ivy forms on your hand or forearm, pee on it. After the sting leaves wash with soap and water. This will prevent the itch and spreading of the ivy. If it starts to sting thats a good sign because that means that the piss is neutralizing the oils and itch. You maybe thinking "What a nut" or "Where did he get that idea?". Well when you're in the Armed Forces you can't run to a drug store or your doc. I thought that when the medic told me this he was on drugs or something. Believe me it does work. If you have any question ask your doctor
--"Robert Norman" (no email provided) submitted 13/May/2003



I am very sensitive to the poison ivy plant and get the rash almost every year. One of the local farmers told me to use gasoline. Wash the exposed area (arms and legs after exposure) and you will never get it. This removes the oils from your skin. Try it and you will never get it again. It works
-- John Land ([email protected]) submitted 20/May/2001

Thank you for this interesting website. I am concerned that you have not commented on the "gasoline" remedy. This is a very dangerous practice which has resulted in severe burns and death. This should be noted on the website. Thanks, Abigail Zavod
--Anonymous (no email provided) submitted 20/Jul/2001
Editor: Thanks. I couldn't have said it better!



How I use: I open the blisters by scraping with a dull object like a kitchen spoon or knife. Then I apply the DMSO directly to the weeping area at full strength 99.9%pure DMSO liquid. The itching will stop immediately and the rash will dry up in 3 to 4 days. I have used this technique over a hundred times with NO adverse effects and it always cures. I no longer go hiking or camping w/o a bottle in my pack. You probably don't have to open the blisters for the DMSO to work but the satisfaction of scratching the rash with the assurance that it will soon be gone is a personal benefit that I am disinclined to forego.
--george thurmond ([email protected]) submitted 13/Feb/2001

DMSO-Dimethyl Sulfoxide Open the blisters and apply 99% pure dmso to rash. Stops spread and stops itching.
--"Jay" ([email protected]) submitted 12/Aug/2002


Treatments over time

My mother would break out within 10 minutes of touching Poison Oak and got it three times a year. She would get it when folks burned oak logs and the smoke carried it to her skin. She warned me about leather watch bands, belts, shoes, anything that touched the oils could harbor the oil for years. We used Fels Naphtha soap to wash skin and clothes following exposure. I wear long sleeves on walks, and avoid touching plants, and shower when I reach home. My son and I both get poison oak rashes easily and may have inherited the tendance from my mother. Her mother was immune. I tried the drops to desensitise myself back in the late 1940's but got the rash from the drops before the treatment was over. I have caught it from tending to my son when bathing his rash in cool water and boro's (sp?)solution. My mother was badly burned by bleach in the 1920's when a Portland doctor tried to cure her rash by pouring bleach on it. She carried the scars all her life. She also wore long-sleeved white shirts when she had a rash, to keep from spreading the oils from the weeping blisters to other parts of her body. We only had calamine lotion in those days. I get some relief from corticosteroid creams and benedryl. My husband has found relief from baking soda and vinegar.
-- Barbara Hess ([email protected]) submitted 20/May/2001



A friend of mine recomended wd-40 on Poison Oak rashes so I tried it and the rash was gone within a day. He said the wd-40 has oil leaching properties which is why it works. Make sure you wash and rinse the area thoroughly with cold water and soap after rubbing it with wd-40. -Ian Oppenheim
--Ian Oppenheim ([email protected]) submitted 20/Jul/2001

I got poison ivy from mowing some of it the other day. Ive had it for about 5 days and today I found this site and just started doing anything I could to work at getting rid of it. I put clay on it which dries up and sucks out oils. I put wd40 on it which I have no idea how well that helped me. I just now put astringent (the stuff that you use on your face for acne and stuff) on a cotton ball and put it on the affected areas and it seems to have gotten rid of the itch. It feels nice and cold. You gotta love it. If I find anything else that helps me I will be sure to post it to help you get rid of it too, cuz I know it sucks.
--"jason hall" ([email protected]) submitted 25/Mar/2003


Portland Cement

Rubbing Portland Cement on the effected area and letting it dry will clear up Poison Ivy within a day or two.
--"Mike" ([email protected]) submitted 17/Aug/2001


Vinegar & Pennies

Right now, im suffering from the infamous Posion Ivy and I can't just wear long pants or long sleeves to hide it considering it is covering my face. My left eye is swollen shut and my nose is covered. A senior In High School's worst nightmare is my life right now. But I think I figured out how to help heal it. Vinegar and pennines. Place 40 pennies in one cup of vinegar and let sit for a day. The chemical reaction of copper and vinegar forms this liquid that drys it up very well. Works well!!
--"Ryan" ([email protected]) submitted 24/Aug/2001

My mother said that a person that she works with told her that you can put vinegar on a hot washcloth and it cures poison ivy.I Have a severe case and I went to the doctor and got a shot,have been putting lotion on, and took cvs alergy formula and I still can't sleep at night.
--"Cody Behel" ([email protected]) submitted 18/Sep/2001


Pepper Mace

Well, you may find this one strange. When I first heard of it I sure did. I 'm a police officer in St Louis, MO and got a bad case of poison ivy searching for a suspect in a vacant lot covered with it. One of my co-workers told me to use my department issued pepper-mace (oleoresin capsicum) on it. I laughed and told him he was full of ####. It got so bad I had to call in sick for a couple of days and he called and asked me if I had used the pepper spray. I still thought he was nuts but he very sincerely told me to try it. I sprayed a little of my Mark iv 10% pepper solution on a cotton square and dabbed it on the patches on my forearms and lower leg areas. It burned like hell at first but after about 60-90 seconds the stinging subsided but so did the itching and in less than 8 hours all of the nasty effects of the poison ivy were gone. The law enforcement issue is 10% solution. The civilian otc pepper sprays are no more than 5% solution, and run $8-10 per canister. The only active ingredient is oleoresin capsicum (black pepper) in a propellant solution. I don't know how it works, but it works. The only nasty side-effect is the initial stinging, so have plenty of cold water handy to rinse it off if needed. John Johnson
--"John J Johnson" ([email protected]) submitted 20/Sep/2001


Camphor and Moonshine

When I was a child growing up in Southwest VA, I had several bouts with poison ivy and one thing that I found that worked really well for me was camphor and moonshine. Camphor and moonshine is home concoction used in place of alcohol. Smells terrible but very effective,especially if you burst the blisters and dab, not rub the mixture on. It dries it right up in a day or two. My problem the last few years is finding canphor blocks to mix with moonshine(I have also mixed canphor and alcohol which worked just as well).
--"Lonnie Frye" ([email protected]) submitted 21/Sep/2001

I heard that farmers got rid of the plant long ago by smothering it with rock salt. So we tried Roundup and then rock salt and it's certainly dead! Also heard that using a cake of camphor and chipping it into rubbing alcohol until it disvolves and then putting on the spots on the body with the poison ivy, gets rid of itch and any blotches in about 2 days! Can't find the camphor cake, however.
--"Judy Snyder" ([email protected]) submitted 24/May/2002


Scrubbing Pads

Yes. I have poison ivy. I had received a bath and body kit for my birthday and it came with the usual bubble bath and lotion, and also came with a pair of gloves to use on dry skin. Well I took a hot shower using the glove with regular bar soap on it and scrubbed my legs alot. Not only did it feel good and next day my legs were better. Don't forget to reapply you doctors prescribed cortisone. It really helped me alot. Good Luck!
--"Margaret Kimmer" ([email protected]) submitted 26/Apr/2002

I have had poison ivy since just after Thanksgiving. Nothing store bought worked until earlier this week. I got fed up and went into an extremely hot shower, took a piece of 3m Scotch Brite and scrubbed each affected area. I shut the shower off and a took bottle of bleach and poured and rubbed it in the affected area. After that, I turned the shower back on and washed off in the hot shower. It hurt like, well, you know......but now the affected area is dry, doesn't itch and I'm on my way to healing up! Do not use this remedy for kids or women or men who can't take pain.
--"Bernie laBastide" ([email protected]) submitted 20/Dec/2002
Editor: Ouch! Wow! You are one hard core guy :-) Too much pain for me!

If your poison ivy is itching really bad, here is what you do. Grab a piece of steel wool and rub it vigorously until the rash starts to bleed. The irritant oil is embedded in the upper layer of skin, so if you remove that, problem is solved.
--"Nick" ([email protected]) submitted 14/Jun/2003



There is precious little information about prevention, aside from 1) avoid the plants, and 2) wash immediately.I Go mountain biking with some frequency, and the place I go is covered in poison ivy. In fact, I always get it when I go there. Out of 10 times biking I contracted poison ivy 10 times, until I started using a product called Ivy Block, by Enviro Derm. Each time I have used the product, I have not developed the poison ivy rash.It is possible, I suppose, that I was not exposed those times. I find that unlikely, though, as I had a 100 percent success rate in getting it previously.When you apply it to your skin, it seems to completely dry the skin out. I believe it creates a barrier to the chemical in poison ivy that normally bonds to the skin proteins. However it does it, I think it works well.Are there any other types of preventative products out there? This is important for people who are very allergic, like me, who want to continue to do an activity in a location known to be infested.Thank
--"Andy" ([email protected]) submitted 3/Jul/2002

Every year I get Poison Ivy. Last year I got it all over my face! It was horrible! Your best prevention is to wear a long button down shirt,hat,gloves and shoes that cover your feet if you are planning to work in the garden. When you are done you wash your hands with cold water and soap and gently take off your clothes throw them in the wash and take a shower immediately wash away any oil on the exposed areas. Many people think that if the blisters pop the poison ivy can spread. That is not true. It takes a few days for all of the exposed areas to come to the surface that is why it seems like it spreads. Ask you pharacy for best over the counter medicine if you have a severe case like me I would recommend seeing your doctor.
--"Mil" ([email protected]) submitted 21/Sep/2002


Drywall Joint Compound

There are two things I used to clear up the rash in 3 days, the 1st thing I use joint compound, sheet rock past, I covered the affected area and let dry onto skin at about 1/8th inch, later rinse with hot water then I put the juice and jell of the comrey plant to relieve the itchy feel, this works really well and is twice as fast as other cures.
--"Bill McMillan" ([email protected]) submitted 22/Aug/2002


Hot Candle Wax

Hot candle wax. I've read a lot of other heat remedies on this site--hot water, hair dryer--and this old Korean remedy follows the same reasoning. But be careful with it. Use a candle that burns at a low temperature, and be very careful to avoid uninfected areas. Best to leave the wax on for a while--I think it dries it out that way.
--"Rose" ([email protected]) submitted 30/Aug/2002


Drink Heavily

I have had Poison Ivy for over two weeks now because I am a terrible golfer and went ball hunting. Everytime it shows signs of clearing it comes back with a vengence. The only acceptable remedy I have found is to drink Highland Scotch on the rocks until I can no longer stand. I then fall to the ground and begin intermittently bashing my face off the floor while drinking more Scotch. The relief is temporary, but very effective. Not recommended for sufferers under 21!!
--"GILL McCARTHY" ([email protected]) submitted 26/Aug/2002
Editor: Do you have to bash your face though to make this effective! :-)

This may just be an excuse for me to get sloshed but I find that a couple(or more:) drinks often reduce either the itching itself or my propensity to notice it.
--"Jennifer" ([email protected]) submitted 5/Jan/2003


Bentonite Powder

A friend told me about this simple cure after I got poison ivy. Make a paste from bentonite powder (it's a clay you get at the health foods stores-costs about $3.50) I used a butter knife to spread it on the affected area. After the 1st day, the blisters were reduced by half and the itching was gone. I'm on the 2nd day now, showing vast improvement.
Wally Shutt
--"Wally L. Shutt" ([email protected]) submitted 24/May/2003


Laquer Thinner

I have found that cleaning with laqueur thinner prior to soap and water has worked best no matter if I know I've contacted ivy or after it starts to show. Laqueur thinner cuts through the oil and kills the poison. Have used it for 10 years and everyone I've reccomended it to has had great results. Have not recomended it for children, don't know if using it topical would have bad results or not. Maybe you can confirm. Seem like this has done better than any prescription on the market to rid of this poison in short term.
--"Marc Colwell" ([email protected]) submitted 31/May/2003