The 5 best home remedies for poison ivy, according to dermatologists – Insider

The poison ivy plant contains an oil called urushiol, which causes an allergic reaction on your skin if you come into contact with it. 
A poison ivy rash is characterized by a red, itchy, and blistering rash on exposed skin. The blisters can break and leak fluid, and they can also crust over and appear black or dark red.
You should learn how to spot poison ivy — the three-leafed, ground-dwelling, viney plant — and try to avoid contact with it as much as possible. According to the American Skin Association, about 10% to 15% of people are extremely allergic to poison ivy, and should see a doctor if they touch the plant.
However, there are many home remedies that can help alleviate the itchiness of a poison ivy rash and allow it to heal faster, and most people will not need medical attention. Consider the following five home remedies if you have a poison ivy rash: 
You may not always realize that you’ve come into contact with poison ivy. However, once you suspect you might have touched poison ivy, “the affected area should be washed immediately,” says Noelani Gonzalez, MD, a Clinical Instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital. 
Gonzalez recommends using cold or lukewarm water when washing the area, as hot water can irritate the rash and make it worse. You should also use hand or dish soap to effectively get rid of the plant’s oil, says Sonya Kenkare, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Rush University Medical Center. 
The combination of soap and water breaks down and washes away urushiol, which is necessary to reduce the chance of an allergic reaction. Kenkare recommends washing the area for about thirty seconds to a minute — just long enough to get rid of the oils without further irritating the skin. 
Alternatively, you could also use rubbing alcohol while washing to remove urushiol from the skin or other affected areas. Overall, it’s important to wash anything that might have contacted the plant’s oil, including: 
Taking short, lukewarm baths can help treat any itchiness from a poison ivy rash, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Just make sure you’ve rinsed thoroughly before getting in the bath. 
“You shouldn’t soak or take a bath if you’ve just come into contact with the plant, as some of the residual oil from the plant may not be washed off and can spread to other parts of your body or from person to person,” Gonzalez says. 
When you have a poison ivy rash, the body produces histamines as part of the allergic reaction, which causes itchiness and redness. Taking a bath in lukewarm water can help soothe your skin. But make sure you’re careful, because bathing in water that’s too hot can cause further discomfort.
“I find that when people use very hot water, it tends to make them more itchy,” says Kenkare. “That goes for showering, as well as washing.” 
Moreover, taking an oatmeal bath can help dry leaky blisters and soothe redness and irritation. A 2007 Journal of Drugs in Dermatology article on colloidal oatmeal — or finely ground, boiled oats — found that it has anti-inflammatory properties and can soothe inflamed skin. 
Soaking in an oatmeal bath for 15 to 30 minutes every eight hours may help relieve itchy, red skin. Other home remedies, like adding one cup of baking soda to a bath, can also help alleviate itchiness. 
Even showering with cool or lukewarm water for your normal duration every eight hours might help reduce itching — only hot water can make it worse. For more information, read about the benefits of cold showers vs. hot showers
You might have a few helpful creams lying around in your medicine cabinet. For example, over the counter hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion can alleviate itching, Gonzalez says. 
Hydrocortisone creams contain topical steroids to reduce swelling, redness, and irritation. Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide and astringents, and a 2019 study published in the Journal of Spectroscopy found that these compounds can also soothe itchiness. 
Both of these creams can be applied to the skin to help alleviate the discomfort of a poison ivy rash. However, calamine lotion should only be used in the first week, since it can dry out the skin, and if used for longer, it may cause further itchiness. 
If you don’t have hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion on hand, you can use other alternatives that you may already have at home:
You might also have some common medications that can help with poison ivy. Oral antihistamines block the body’s production of histamines, which will help stop the symptoms of your allergic reaction to poison ivy, such as swelling, redness, and itchiness. 
Taking oral antihistamines can reduce itching, Gonzalez says. Non-drowsy oral antihistamines, like Zyrtec and Allegra, may be used throughout the day to relieve itching, redness, and swelling. Benadryl, which induces drowsiness, is more helpful for managing these symptoms at night and allowing you to get better sleep. 
However, you should avoid antihistamine creams, because they can worsen the rash, according to National Capital Poison Control. You should also avoid creams that contain anesthetics, like benzocaine, or antibiotics like neomycin or bacitracin, as these can further irritate the skin. 
Gonzalez says the anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar can help soothe the rash and relieve pain and redness. 
But Kenkare warns against applying apple cider vinegar to freshly inflamed skin. The vinegar’s acidity could be painful if the skin is still raw, tender, or has open blisters. You should place a couple drops of diluted apple cider vinegar on unblistered skin first, to see if it causes irritation. If the vinegar doesn’t inflame the area, it might provide some relief for the poison ivy rash.
Overall, vinegar has been used for centuries to treat common ailments, including poison ivy rashes, but there’s no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar is specifically effective at treating poison ivy. 
If you decide to use apple cider vinegar to treat a poison ivy rash, dab a cotton ball dipped in the vinegar onto the affected area. You may want to dilute the apple cider vinegar with water if you have sensitive skin, or a particularly severe rash. 
A poison ivy rash will usually clear up on its own, in as quickly as four hours or as long as three weeks. 
You should see a doctor, though, if you exhibit symptoms of a severe poison ivy allergic reaction, which can include:
Your doctor can then prescribe the best course of treatment to hinder the body’s extreme allergic response or to control any infection in the skin or body. 
If you do have an extreme allergic reaction to poison ivy, you may also want to be careful of mangos. That’s because mango skin contains urushiol, just like poison ivy. You should be able to eat the fruit, but touching the skin may also cause an allergic reaction. 
Poison ivy is a common rash that can be managed with home remedies and an understanding of how to prevent it. 
“I think one of the most important parts of poison ivy is actually prevention,” Kenkare says. For example, wearing long pants and sleeves while doing yardwork or walking through a forest can help reduce the risk of urushiol oil coming into contact with your skin. You should also be able to recognize and avoid the poison ivy plant in the first place. 
If you do accidentally touch the plant, try to rinse the area with water immediately, and wash the affected area with soap and water for about a minute to stop the oil from causing an allergic reaction on your skin. And, if you still develop the itchy rash, use the home remedies above to relieve your symptoms until it heals.