Remedies for poison oak, poison ivy

I’m as allergic to poison oak as anyone I know; I’ve “gotten” it even from contact once removed, from the coat of a dog, someone else’s hand or jacket. The swelling and itching is very bad: eyes swell shut, skin won’t tolerate clothing. I’ve found two things that work better for me than anything else.

For the itching, take antihistamines. These work also for relieving the itching of mosquito bites.

For the swelling, and to make the poison oak lesions dry up and go away faster, try Neutrogena’s Body Clear Body Scrub. Put it on the affected areas generously and gently (do not scrub) and let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes before rinsing. One application usually is enough; if not repeat after a few hours. The active ingredient is salicylic acid, 2%, meant to dry up oily skin, but for me it has been extremely effective at reducing swelling and itching, stopping “weeping” from the lesions, and making them heal in perhaps half the usual time. I expect that other preparations with similar content of salicylic acid would work too, as long as no other ingredient irritates the poison oak blisters, but this is the only one I have tried. I keep a bottle just for poison oak season, year after year.

The active ingredient that causes the allergy is urushiol, and as far as I know it is the same in all three species of poison oak and ivy, so this remedy should help in all cases. The fact that the condition is an allergy, not a case of “poisoning,” explains why reactions vary among individuals and even in the same individual. A person previously non-reactive can develop the allergy after any number of exposures.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any financial interest in Neutrogena.

Images below from Wikipedia: left, glossy new spring growth of Western or Pacific poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, also called Rhus diversiloba. Brand-new spring foliage is sometimes crimson.
Right, the attractive fall colors.



5 thoughts on “Remedies for poison oak, poison ivy

  1. Hey thanks for the tip my legs are curently consumed with poison oak and I am about to try to go to bed as I scrolled across this article My fiance just happened to have some neutrogena deep clean facial cleanser with the salicylic acid in it so I am going to try it tonight I will let you know if it works by tomorrow thanks alot

  2. Triamcinolone acetonide is the cream that puts the entire reaction down fast. Get it from a dermatologist. It is a topical steroid cream that ends any reaction spot in a day or two. Remember though, it is a TWO WEEK outbreak. So, just because you beat it down in one spot, for two weeks it can return. So get a few tubes. I live near tijuana, so I just roll to the pharmacies there. Its 6 bucks in mexico, but requires a scrip in america. Doctors need their.blood money, and if you are reading this, you know that every second is agony, and the system promises you at least six hours of waiting, and then hoping that the doc doesn’t declare it a staff infection and shoot you full of antibiotics. Get some now. Have some on hand.

  3. Last time I was down there, triamcinolone acetonide was with Nystatin. Couldn’t get it by itself, just with Nystatin mixed in, which makes me itch. Can you get it now without it?

  4. Next time I see my derm, I am going to try and get some steroid cream for ivy is all over the back yard and an inevitable right of passage every summer. … Today, I have the poison ivy all over my legs. Before I read this article (literally yesterday) I applied an acne cream from neutrogena with a 2% active ingredient salicylic acid, my hunch paid off. Just as you stated it’s used to dry up acne / pores / etc, and I was betting it would help reduce the redness and swelling at the very least it couldn’t hurt. It looks MUCH better today, so I will continue. Good to see others are using it and I’m not crazy.

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