Very Itchy Skin from Poison Ivy

Updated on August 15, 2013
T.S. asks from Langhorne, PA
14 answers

About 2 weeks ago I was outside and somehow touched poison something-or-other (no idea if it was ivy, sumac, oak or something else), but my arm blistered up and was nonstop weepy and it started to spread (I am highly allergic). So, I went to the doctor before things got worse (which I knew they would) and unfortunately, since I am pregnant, he could not prescribe an oral steroid so he gave me a topical steroid cream. Put that on the areas that needed it most and it immediately stopped the weeping and the rash began to dry.... however, the rash still spread here and there. Odd thing is, is that I don't have a blistery spreading rash like I have had in the past when I got something. Trying to use the medicine but it's hard getting it everywhere (plus I can't use it on my abdomen). Here is my problem, at this point, my entire body itches like mad whether here is a rash there or not. Like, my whole skin is itchy everywhere and the some of the scratching is causing a rash. Reminds me of my son and his eczema (which, btw, I don't have). I am just confused as to what is going on with my skin and how to relieve the itching. Doctor said if I didn't get relief from the steroid cream, to call my OB/GYN to see what they can recommend. Thinking of maybe doing that. I was also wondering if soaking in a bath with Aveeno Oatmeal Bath (it's a baby eczema type bath treatment that I keep on hand for my son if I should need it) will help me. I don't know how well it works. Considered lotioning myself up (thought maybe my entire skin is dry and thats why I am itching), but I have so many sore rashes that I was afraid it would sting). Your thoughts and past experience would be very helpful!

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answers from Portland on

I would get some Tecnu soap if the pharmacist says its ok. You can take Benadryl while pregnant, and it is an antihistimine, so that will help with the itching. I am so sorry! I don't know what else you can do, but I say you need to go back because if it isn't better by now, and getting worse, you are not fighting it off. Good luck!

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answers from Columbia on

ETA: I just wanted to say NO to using Fels Naptha. Fels Naptha is LAUNDRY soap. It's not "just soap" like Ivory or Irish Spring. It is MUCH stronger. The package STATES that it is a skin and eye irritant. I use it in my homemade detergent to wash clothes....and it doesn't take much because it's so strong. Please don't use it.

Original post:

Hi! Combat medic here. I deal with a LOT of cases of poison ivy/oak.

I can suggest a couple of basic treatments:

The best, most successful method: go swimming at the local over-chlorinated swimming pool. As often and as long as you can. If you cannot do that, take a bath in lukewarm water. Add 1/2 cup of *plain, unscented bleach* to a full tub. Soak for as long as you can, and then allow yourself to air-dry as much as possible. The chlorine will start to dry and clear up the rash VERY quickly, and you'll get near-immediate itch relief and it will NOT sting your open wounds.

Or, still a good method, but not as good as swimming/chlorine: Buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a bottle of calamine from the pharmacy. Get the real, pink calamine, and the regular rubbing alcohol (not the aloe type). Pour 1/2 of the bottle of rubbing alcohol down the drain (flush lots of water down with it) and fill the 1/2 of that bottle with calamine. Shake it up. Apply to all your itchy parts. I usually just pour it on my hand and pat it onto the rash. Avoid open wounds!

These two methods will help your rash to dry out and help with the itch.

C. Lee

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answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know, but you could try rubbing your skin with a mixture of baking soda and sugar with a little water so that it makes a paste. Wherever you have the rash/itchiness, rub it in really well then rinse well.

I am very allergic to poison oak, and have had it many times over the years, but not much since adulthood. I did pick it up from my mom a few years ago, though. I guess she still had some of the oils on her skin when I hugged her. Or else it was on her clothes. She had had it for a few days already by then. By the end of the day I noticed my face felt dry/itchy and I became paranoid about touching it.

I looked online and found the above home made mixture/remedy and thought what could it hurt? Because by the next day, it was getting dry and scaly. Normally, I would get the blisters and weepy stuff. But this time, it hadn't done that. I used the mixture and made an appt at the dr's office for the steroids. It never got bad after I used the paste stuff.

I guess it exfoliates the skin enough to get the oils out of the 2nd layer of skin, so that it can heal, rather than only removing the external oils. And the oils do penetrate the skin if you don't get it off completely quickly enough.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Ask before doing anything though. Ask a pharmacist since there's bound to be one open somewhere right now then call and ask the doc if the pharmacist has any reservations.

I love the Aveeno products. You can make a paste of some natural ingredients too. I can't remember what goes in except oatmeal, maybe ground up in a blender or with a mixer.

The lotion always makes my legs stop itching when I have dry skin and it's cracking.

I googled what to do for poison ivy while pregnant and got tons of suggestions for you. I don't know if they are all safe of course but you could look up the individual treatments and see if there are any side effects that prohibit taking it while pregnant.

The next to last paragraph has an odd suggestion that I'd like to know if it works....Just above the word "questions".

This one has 2 suggestions. 1 is soap and the other is Tecnu.
And there are pages and pages with more ideas. Asking the doc and pharmacist is always the best but do follow up their suggestions with research on the med yourself. There may be a capitol letter warning to not take it if pregnant but the doc said it was okay. Obviously not. I always do some follow up and research a bit myself if I can.

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answers from Detroit on

I just had my first experience this summer with a rash caused by Virginia Creeper. The best thing I did for immediate relief was to soak washcloths in really cold water and place them on the itchy parts. The relief really only lasts while the cloths stay cold but it was enough to tide me over until the steroid cream started to take effect.

You have my sympathy :( I hope you get relief soon!

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answers from Boston on

This really doesn't sound like poison ivy all over you. It's unlikely that it would spread like that after so much time. Besides, it's not a rash and it itches anyway. It's reallly more of a systemic reaction and that tells me you need to heal from inside.

It's probably too late for Tecnu - that's what you use right after exposure to remove the oils from your skin, but I would think that, after weeks of showering, those are gone. FYI there is an astringent you can use when the blisters are fresh, it's called Domeboro (available over the counter but sometimes behind the pharmacy counter) - you mix it in water and put wet compresses on the blisters. It draws out the water and stops the itch.

There is a natural anti-inflammatory called lunasin - the most concentrated form is call LunaRich X which is extracted from the plant via a mechanical process (never a chemical one). You need a referral to the one company that has exclusive rights - message me and I will give you my last name and my ID number, and I'd also be happy to talk to you more about it. Totally safe for pregnant women because it's purely food-based in a vegetable capsule. It's also available in some nutritional products that are, likewise, safe for children, pregnant mothers, people with suppressed immune system (e.g. cancer, autoimmune diseases). You say you are highly allergic and maybe you can message me to tell me more about that - that's probably remedial as well through non-drug means. All my allergies are gone.

You could take an outmeal bath or a cornstarch bath too, assuming you aren't so late in your pregnancy that they are telling you not to take baths at all. Try not to rub any more cream or lotion on anything - the rubbing can aggravate the itching, and there may be something in the creams that is irritating you.

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answers from Washington DC on


Poison Ivy/Sumac/Oak typically does not spread unless you haven't cleaned the area or your hands....wearing the same clothes that did not get washed, sounds more like an allergy to something since it's spread...yes, I know you stated you are allergic but it might be more than just poison ivy.

As to the bath? You need to talk with you OB/GYN before you do that - if the water is too hot - you can harm your baby - YOU can cool off - but your baby has no way of cooling off - that's why they say no hot tubs, bubble baths, saunas while pregnant.

Call your pharmacist to see if you can take benadryl to help with the itching and spread of the allergen....

Congratulations on your pregnancy!!! I'm sorry about the rash!!! Hope it clears up fast!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

When I get poison ivy, the itching goes on forever until a steroid turns the reaction off.
Yes, it's partly spread at least initially by the oil but once that's washed away what's left is your immune system going haywire and not standing down again - and that keeps the itch going and the rash spreading
My record was going 2 months hoping it would just quit but when I woke up with bloody legs from scratching in my sleep I gave up and went to the Dr.

The oatmeal bath is wonderful - I've used it many times for myself and our son.
It relieves itching while your in the bath but it usually will return a few hours later.
(A cup of plain yogurt in your bath water is great for your skin too although it doesn't help with itching for the most part unless the cause was yeast related.)
Last time I had a small itchy patch, I found that a little Vick's Vapor Rub really helped stop the itch and it worked for a long time.
It didn't sting me at all.
You could try it on a small spot and see if that helps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I had a small patch of poison ivy blisters a few years ago, and it drove me nuts for weeks - I am so sorry that you've got so much!

Aveeno baths provided me with some relief, and several times a day (when the burning would flare up) I would spread a small dose of Tea Tree oil (concentrated) on the blisters. It took a few minutes, but the burning itch did subside.

Sending luck and healing power your way!



answers from Austin on

You need to make sure that whatever you touched has been washed since your exposure to poison ivy (or whichever plant) in hot, soapy water. The oil from those plants are very easily transferred to other surfaces (couch, bedding, other clothing, etc) so you might just be re-exposing yourself. Also the same if you have pets and they get into the plants - the oil will spread to where ever they touch. Also, the oil will last a long time meaning it will not just dry up and go away - you have to wash it out. The oil can last for forever - seriously, unless you wash it out!

I get very bad skin reactions to poison ivy, sumac, oak, etc and I also have allergies that give me hives and contact dermititis (rash). I had one for a month and my only relief was taking hot showers (as hot as I could stand it) every few hours. Ice cold compacts also work but for more localized relief.

If it is an allergic reaction you might want to take some zyrtec. The creams/oatmeal baths/calamine lotion never helped me with the itching if it was allergy related. Just zyrtec. If it's left over poison oak (or other plant variety) use rubbing alcohol on the rash to dry out the oil from the plant. Good luck!



answers from Austin on

I've heard Zanfel works wonders... it is expensive, though...

According to the website, it is safe to use during pregnancy..



answers from Columbia on

Aveno. Has an itchy skin bubble bath relief....I'm very allergic to poison as well and the Aveno works wonders!



answers from Louisville on

go get some Fels Napatha - it is a bar-type laundry soap (in the laudnry aisle at stores) and wash EVERYTHING you have been in contact with -- this includes YOU! It will not hurt you - it is just soap!

this wonderful hint came from my pedi years ago - and I still use it today! that soap gets the oils off you and whatever else so you don't keep spreading it all over!



answers from Chattanooga on

Try the oatmeal bath. Some other remedies that have worked for me were to use chamomile tea (put a dozen tea bags or so in your bath water.), and rubbing yogurt on the rash.

Also, make a paste with baking soda and let it dry on the rash. Then brush it off, and re-apply every few hours. It's messy, but effective. :)

I would avoid any lotion other than aloe-based... Aloe will relieve it some, but oil-based lotions won't do squat.

I grew up in the mountains, and spent my childhood playing in the forest. I definitely ran into more than my fair share of stinging nettle, and all the poison plants. Lol.

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