Once absorbed by the skin, poison ivy must run its course; however, it can be prevented and safely treated at home. To prevent poison ivy, immediately rinse with cool or lukewarm water after exposure. To treat it, avoid scratching, and apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone to the skin. Cool compresses and antihistamine medications can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms.
- Rinse with cool water immediately
After contact with poison ivy, rinse off with cool or lukewarm water as soon as possible. Rinsing with cool water can wash the poison ivy oil off your skin and prevent it from being absorbed. Remove all clothing and other items that came in contact with the poison ivy, and wash them as well. If symptoms such as trouble breathing, severe swelling, or a rash that covers the entire body occur, go to an emergency room immediately.
- Avoid scratching, and apply calamine lotion
Do not scratch the rash or pop blisters. Scratching and opening blisters can cause the poison ivy to spread or lead to infection. Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream help reduce itching and inflammation caused by poison ivy. Follow the directions for application listed on the product packaging.
- Take antihistamines, and apply cold compresses
Antihistamine pills reduce painful itching, burning and swelling. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about taking an antihistamine until the poison ivy heals. Applying cold compresses to the skin can also provide relief. Wet a clean washcloth or towel with cold water, and press it on the skin.