Learn how to get natural relief for a severe poison ivy rash using these 12 common and unusual remedies for itch relief and healing.
***I am not a doctor. I am not telling you what your should do or not do to treat a poison ivy rash. This is just my experience. Try these natural remedies at your own risk.***
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One Fun Saturday…
One fun Saturday of clearing brush on the farm turned into one severe case of poison ivy for me. As of this moment, I’m still recovering. And thankfully the most severe itching has subsided.
I thought since I tried all the natural remedies, I ought to share what I learned for anyone else who experiences the same unfortunate event.
I didn’t realized I had been working with poison ivy at the time but I was careful to wash well that evening when I showered. The rash showed up two days later and for the next 5 days it spread all over both my arms, most of my torso, a little on my neck, face and legs.
The worst days were day 3 and 4 but after that I think I learned to manage the itching better.
Day 4 of dealing with the spreading rash was hard. I was worried it was going to appear on my face or other sensitive areas. I was sleeping very badly at night and once woke up feeling like I couldn’t breath. Now I think I was panicking and overly tired.
I had a Tele-doc appointment and as I expected was prescribed steroids. But I’m stubborn and didn’t want to take them for a variety of reason. So I decided to tough it out and continued to try as many natural remedies as I could. It’s possible I would have done things differently if I had poison ivy near my eyes or other sensitive areas of the body or was having it affect my respiratory system. Thankfully it was just bad on my arms and torso.
I am not posting a picture of my rash because I’m too private for that but as you can imagine it was bad!
Preventing Poison Ivy Rash
Obviously, the best way to deal with a poison ivy rash is to avoid poison ivy, oak and sumac. But if you are like me and have already read one or two articles on dealing with poison ivy you already know that.
The second best way to prevent it is to wash really well with a strong soap. A couple of options are Fels Naptha, Dawn Dish Soap and Tecnu Extreme. While these aren’t natural soaps, they might save you a load of trouble later.
As a very naturally minded person, I’d rather wash once with a harsher, probably containing toxins, soap than itch for weeks!
Natural Relief for Severe Poison Ivy Rash
Below is a list of some of the common as well as more exotic natural remedies I tried. Some worked better than others but I thought I’d share all the noteworthy ones and my experience with them, so if you find yourself in a similar situation, you have a better idea of what to expect.
A Very Hot Shower
This is one that is a bit controversial. I read many many many (did I say many) poison ivy articles and hot showers were discouraged in most of them. However, I found a few people sharing that really hot water would take away the itching for several hours up to as much as eight hours! This was enough for me to try it. Especially since I’ve always loved hot showers.
The water needs to be hot enough to feel the burn but not be so hot that it will burn your skin. I took a couple showers where the water wasn’t quite hot enough and didn’t offer the itching relief.
I took a lot of showers in the beginning and the hot water did work amazingly well! It was my go to when I started feeling crazy itchy. I would shower middle of the day or middle of the night 5-6 times a day. I didn’t need quite so many once I started incorporating some other remedies.
The Tele-doc I talked to told me to only take cool showers. I asked why and he said the hot water would be irritating. I told him I had found hot showers to be the one thing that helped the most. He sounded a bit confused but said there wasn’t anything wrong with taking a hot shower as long as it helped me.
Bentonite clay was one of the first remedies I tried. This was soothing for a while but then as it would dry out, the clay would start to irritate my skin. I think this would have worked better if I was not covering my entire stomach with clay.
I would need to wash in the shower but then that would make me itchy again. This was before I discovered the really hot shower technique. I do think it helped to dry out some of the poison ivy a bit. I would use this again in combination with the really hot showers.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Putting some undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar on a poison ivy rash burns but it is said it helps to dry out the rash more quickly. I started treating my rash with ACV after I realized how bad it was getting. It did burn super bad but then I found it also offered a little relief from the itching too.
Baking Soda Bath
A Baking Soda Bath is similar to the shower. I found really great relief from a really hot bath in baking soda and the baking soda made my skin feel soft and not dry and scratchy. The second time I took a bath with baking soda the water wasn’t hot enough so I got out feeling so so itchy. It’s tricky to find the balance between too hot and not hot enough. While that first bath was perfect, I did find showers to be easier to take.
One other observation I had with the baking soda bath, was my rash spread like crazy over night after the bath. I don’t know if it would have done that anyway or if somehow the baking soda pulled the rash to the surface faster. It’s hard to say. It might have actually helped to get it over quicker or it could have just made it worse. I have no idea.
Hyland’s Poison Ivy Relief Tablets
I discovered Hyland’s Poison Ivy Poison Oak Relief Treatment Tablets day 4 of my rash in the wee hours of the morning as I couldn’t sleep from the itching. Amazon offered same day delivery so I ordered them right away.
I started taking them as soon as they arrived at 5 in the evening. Saturday is when I started to feel like maybe just maybe I was turning a corner. While I was still crazy itchy, I felt like the rash that seemed like it kept spreading slowed down significantly and the itching was just a little better.
It’s hard to say if they helped or I would have started to turn a corner on my own, but I would definitely try these Hyland’s homeopathic tablets right away if I ever find myself in this unfortunate situation again.
Yes, you read that right. I happened to start thinking about how moms have recommended breastmilk for babies suffering from eczema and thought it couldn’t hurt to try it on my rash. I had some year old frozen breastmilk in our freezer and decided to pull it out and try it.
Breastmilk contains antiseptic properties, IgA antibodies as well as antibacterial properties which can help to sooth the skin as well as keep away infection. Here is an article on some Amazing Uses for Breastmilk.
I started using breastmilk about a week into my rash appearing. I soaked some gauze in it and laid the gauze over my rash. The relief was so good!
The one not so nice thing about this natural remedy was that after the milk dried on my skin it felt just a tad sticky and made my skin feel tight. It helped to put on a tighter fitting long sleeve shirt. This helped my skin not feel so sticky and eased the tight feeling. I didn’t want to wash off the milk because it knew all the healing properties would not have a chance to do their work.
I really do think this remedy helped to speed up the healing process. And would totally do this again! If I didn’t have any frozen milk, I would probably ask if any of my friends had any older frozen breastmilk in their freezer they wouldn’t mind sharing. I know it’s a little strange but hey, if you are desperate then it doesn’t matter so much.
Tight Fitting Clothing
While may articles I read suggested wearing loose fitting clothing, I found loose clothing to be completely irritating to my skin. The fabric gently brushing over my skin made me more itchy. I found that breathable tight fitting clothing was less irritating to my skin.
Activated Charcoal is one of those natural remedies I never want to be without. I took several doses of activated charcoal several days after the rash appeared at the suggestion of my mom. I don’t know where this helped at all but after a quick google search just now, it does look like people have used activated charcoal with great success both topically and internally.
Although I have used charcoal topically for other ailments, I didn’t think to use it for poison ivy until now. While it can be a little messy to apply a charcoal poultice, I would definitely use it in the future if I should ever have a poison ivy rash again.
I found relief from the ocean and pool with past poison ivy experiences. Since it is early fall here and it’s too cold for swimming I thought about the sun. The sun is good for so many things and I thought that perhaps it would bring me some relief.
I don’t know whether it helped at all but it did feel good to uncover my rash for a bit and get some natural vitamin D on my skin. Sun can be drying so I thought perhaps it would help dry out my rash as well.
Like with most of these remedies, I don’t have any proof the sun helped but as I’m a week and a half in at this point and my severe rash is healing, I’m sure some of these remedies were beneficial.
I figured that since my immune system was needing some support I’d boost it by taking something orally. I took extra vitamin C in the form of Power Packs. Echinacea and elderberry were some other immune boosting supplements I took.
Jewelweed is a wonderful herb to use on poison ivy and it can seriously reduce the itching and even prevent the rash.
We searched our property and the woods around our neighbors property for jewelweed but weren’t able to find any. While I do know of a local nature preserve that has some, I wasn’t up for loading all the kids up to go and look for it.
I’m tempted to try and get some to grow on our farm in case of future need though.
As a born again Christian, I believe God loves me and cares even about the poison ivy I’m suffering through. I did pray that God would spare my children from getting a poison ivy rash since they were working and hanging out with us the whole day we worked in the yard. Some of the articles I read said it can take up to ten days for a rash to appear.
We are at eleven days now and other than one or two tiny spots I’ve noticed, all my girls are poison ivy free. The little spots are no more noticeable to them than a bug bite. I don’t even think they realize it.
With how rapidly my rash spread the first couple of days, I prayed that God would spare my face and sensitive areas from getting it. I’m so thankful He did.
I also believe he led me to so many of these natural remedies, as many of them aren’t common suggestions when google searching how to help a poison ivy rash.
What To Do Right Away
Through this experience and looking for how to get natural relief for my severe poison ivy, I feel that I would be able to have a better game plan if I ever have to go through this again.
First – The first thing I would do if I knew or thought I came in contact with poison ivy is wash again really well with a good strong soap and warm (not hot) water.
Second – I would also immediately start taking the Hyland’s homeopathic tablets even if I didn’t have a rash yet. I really feel that this helps a lot.
Third – If I got a rash, I would treat it with an activated charcoal poultice as well as drink some charcoal water.
Fourth – I would use hot showers and breastmilk to manage the itching, while continuing to take the Hyland’s and use charcoal poultices.