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Home Remedies for Poison Oak Natural Ways to Relieve Itch


If you’ve ever had to cut short a camping trip due to an allergic reaction from poison oak or found yourself itching and scratching after coming into contact with your pet who walked into your house, chances are you’ve encountered the dreaded poison oak. But what exactly is poison oak and how can you deal with the itch? In this article, we will explore the home remedies for poison oak and provide you with all the information you need to know.

What Is Poison Oak?

Poison oak, scientifically known as Toxicodendron diversilobum, is a vine-like shrub that belongs to the sumac family. It is commonly found in western parts of North America and Canada. The plant has dull green leaves with tiny hair-like structures all around them, which resemble oak tree leaves, hence the name poison oak.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90% of the American population would develop an allergic reaction when exposed to poison oak. Similar to poison ivy, poison oak contains a toxic chemical called urushiol, which is responsible for causing these allergic reactions. Urushiol is an oil-like substance that is typically present on the leaves and stems of the plant. Contact with urushiol can result in severe itching and rashes. Inhaling smoke from burnt poison oak can also cause rashes, itching, and lung irritation, according to the CDC.

How Does Poison Oak Spread?

You can come into contact with poison oak in various ways, including:

  1. Touching tools that have been used to cut poison oak.
  2. Coming into contact with another person who has been exposed to urushiol.
  3. Touching clothing or surfaces that have been exposed to urushiol.

It’s important to note that the allergic reaction to poison oak may not be immediate and can take up to 24-48 hours for symptoms to appear.

Symptoms of Poison Oak Exposure

The main ingredient in poison oak that causes an allergic reaction is urushiol oil. If you are able to wash it off immediately, you may be able to reduce the severity of the symptoms or possibly prevent them. However, if you are unable to wash it off, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Severe itching
  • Swelling
  • Bumps, patches, and weeping blisters

These symptoms can last for a few days or up to a week or longer in some cases. While there is no specific treatment for poison oak allergies, there are remedies available to help alleviate the symptoms.

Home Remedies for Poison Oak Itch

When dealing with poison oak itch, it’s important to act quickly and be mindful to prevent further aggravation of the allergic reaction. Here are a few natural remedies you can try:

1. Avoid Scratching Your Skin

The first and most important thing to do is resist the urge to scratch yourself. Scratching can spread urushiol all over your body and increase the number of affected areas. It can also accidentally burst blisters, which can be painful.

2. Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress to the inflamed area may help soothe it and provide temporary relief. You can dampen a towel in ice-cold water and gently place it on the affected area. Repeat this process 3-4 times a day.

3. Take an Oatmeal Bath

Taking a bath with colloidal oatmeal can help reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness. Colloidal oatmeal has traditionally been used to treat various inflammatory skin conditions.

4. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a natural astringent that can help reduce inflammation and provide momentary relief. Topically applying witch hazel extracts on the affected area may help alleviate the symptoms.

5. Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a popular choice in home remedies for various skin conditions. Applying manuka honey to the affected area may help relieve itching.

6. Baking Soda

Baking soda can also provide relief from the effects of poison oak allergy. Adding a cup of baking soda to lukewarm or cold water and taking a bath can help reduce itching.

7. Jewelweed

Jewelweed, also known as the spotted “touch me not,” can help relieve itching caused by poison oak when used as a mash. However, using jewelweed extracts in the form of soaps and gels may not be as effective as fresh mash.

8. Chamomile and Lavender Essential Oils

Lavender and chamomile essential oils have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. Topically applying these oils may help relieve the burning sensation and itching caused by poison oak.

9. Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay can act as a barrier and prevent the spread of toxins to other parts of the skin. Using creams and lotions that contain quaternium-18 bentonite could be effective in treating poison oak allergies.

In addition to these home remedies, there are a few other remedies you can try to help reduce the itching caused by poison oak.

Other Remedies for Poison Oak Itch

  • Take prescription steroids: Steroids like prednisone may help ease the itching. However, it is important to consult a doctor before taking any prescription medication.
  • Use calamine lotion: Calamine lotion can reduce itching, provide a cooling effect, and help reduce inflammation. Reapply the lotion whenever it dries out.
  • Take oral antihistamines: Over-the-counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine or cetirizine may help reduce symptoms. However, topical application of these creams is not advised.

These remedies are meant to provide temporary relief from the symptoms of poison oak. It’s important to note that the only cure for this allergic reaction is time. If you have any medical conditions, it is advisable to consult your doctor before trying any of these home remedies, as they may interact with certain drugs and potentially cause adverse reactions.

Does Touching Poison Oak Rash Spread It?

No, touching a poison oak rash itself will not make it worse or spread it to other people or other parts of your body. However, you may develop a rash if you touch the affected person’s skin while poison oak oil is still on it. Thoroughly washing the affected skin with soap and water is important to prevent the rash from spreading.

How Long Does Poison Oak Rash Last?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), a poison oak rash may take 1-14 days to go away if a person has previously had it. For those who have never experienced it before, a poison oak rash may last up to 21 days.

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if any of the following conditions apply to you:

  • The rash spreads to over 25% of your body.
  • Blisters form and are filled with yellow pus with scales around them.
  • The itching worsens and affects your sleep.
  • Rashes develop near your mouth, eyes, and genital regions.
  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You develop a fever of 100°F and above.

If you experience conditions like breathing difficulties and high fever, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

In conclusion, poison oak allergies can cause severe itching, blisters, and skin lesions. Urushiol, a toxin present in poison oak, is responsible for these allergic reactions. While there is no specific treatment for this allergy, there are various home remedies you can try to relieve the symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that these remedies provide temporary relief, and time is the only cure for the allergic reaction. If you have any medical conditions, it is best to consult a doctor before trying any of these remedies.

Infographic: 6 Natural Ways To Relieve Poison Oak Itch


In this infographic, you can learn about six natural ways to soothe the itching caused by poison oak using simple ingredients available at home.

Note: The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new treatment or if you have any questions or concerns about your health.

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