Poison ivy appears in woodlands, parks, and backyards. If people touch poison ivy, it can cause an irritating and itchy rash.
Symptoms usually occur 24–48 hours after coming into contact with poison ivy. In some cases, they can present as soon as 30 minutes after contact. However, symptoms can take as long as 2 weeks to appear. Rashes will usually clear within 2–3 weeks.
Poison ivy rash symptoms include:
- a red rash
- bumps or blisters
- spots or streaks that are darker than the surrounding skin
Anecdotal remedies include the use of apple cider vinegar to relieve rash symptoms.
Here we look at how to use apple cider vinegar for poison ivy rash, other home remedies, and when to see a doctor.
There is no specific research to support apple cider vinegar as a treatment for poison ivy rash.
Some anecdotal evidence suggests that it could wash other types of poison off the skin, such as jellyfish stings.
Before applying any home remedy to a rash, it is important to take the following steps:
- Wash the rash with soap and cool water. Avoid hot water as this can irritate the skin further.
- Remove and wash any clothing that may have come into contact with the plant.
- Use soap, water, and gloves to wash any other items, such as tools or shoes, that may have come into contact with poison ivy.
- If a pet has come into contact with poison ivy, wash their fur with soapy water so that the oil does not transfer.
- Avoid scratching the skin or bursting any blisters, as this can cause further irritation and increase the risk of infection.
These steps can help prevent the rash from worsening and spreading to other parts of the body or other people.
If people wish to use apple cider vinegar as a treatment for poison ivy rash, anecdotal reports recommend dipping a clean cotton ball into apple cider vinegar and applying it gently to the rash or using a small spray bottle. People can apply the vinegar several times a day, until the symptoms ease.
If necessary, people can dilute apple cider vinegar with water to make it less potent.
People should use home remedies on a rash with caution. No scientific evidence supports the use of apple cider vinegar to treat poison ivy rashes.
Apple cider vinegar may cause side effects in some people. In some cases, the vinegar may burn the skin. To check for any adverse reactions, people can perform a patch test by applying a small amount of apple cider vinegar to an area of healthy skin and waiting 24 hours for any effect.
People may experience a stinging or burning sensation when applying apple cider vinegar to a rash. They can dilute apple cider vinegar with water if necessary. A person should also avoid the use of the vinegar on broken skin.
- cool compresses or soaking the skin in cool water to relieve symptoms
- over-the-counter (OTC) topical corticosteroids
- prescription oral corticosteroids
- aluminum acetate
- baking soda mixed with water to form a paste that a person can apply to the rash to ease irritation
- adding 1 cup of baking soda to a bath
- colloidal oatmeal bath
- OTC topical treatments containing zinc, such as zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, or zinc oxide
- calamine lotion to dry out any oozing
- oral antihistamines to reduce itching
- hydrocortisone cream to treat mild rashes
People may be able to treat a poison ivy rash with home remedies if their rash is mild and only covers a small area of skin.
If symptoms become more severe, do not get better within 7–10 days, or a rash shows signs of infection, people should see a doctor.
People should seek immediate medical attention if they have any of the following symptoms:
- trouble breathing or swallowing
- a rash around the eyes, mouth, or genitals
- swelling in the face
- itching that worsens or prevents people from sleeping
- rashes that cover a quarter of the body or more
- signs of infection, such as yellow pus or severe tenderness
Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol, which inflames the skin and causes an irritating rash. As well as poison ivy, other poisonous plants such as sumac and oak contain urushiol, and these can also cause allergic reactions.
Urushiol easily transfers to the skin or clothing when people touch poison ivy. Although the rash is not contagious, the oil can also pass to other people’s skin or clothing via touch.
Poison ivy does not affect most pets, but if an animal touches poison ivy and brushes past someone, the oil can transfer from their fur to human skin or clothing.
The more exposure that people have to plants that contain urushiol, the more likely they are to have a severe reaction.
People may find that applying apple cider vinegar can help ease symptoms of a poison ivy rash. Other home remedies or OTC treatments may also be effective.
A poison ivy rash should disappear within a few weeks. If it lasts longer, gets worse, or shows no improvement after 7–10 days, people should see their doctor.
People should seek immediate medical attention if they have any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction or infection.