Tips for Poison Ivy Rash From the Pharmacist

a doctor's prescription pad
Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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It’s summer, which means warm weather, days at the beach, and poison ivy. Every summer, people swing by the pharmacy with questions about how to get rid of their itchy rash.

If you do happen to come into contact with poison ivy this summer you may find the following tips particularly helpful:

The earlier you realize you have been exposed, the better

A poison ivy rash is a result of exposure to oil on the plant known as urushiol. Symptoms include an outbreak of blisters combined with redness, swelling, and itching of the skin. The rash will occur only where the plant oil has touched the skin, so a person with poison ivy can’t spread it on the body by scratching, or from person-to-person contact. 

If you know you have been exposed, wash your skin with soap and cool water as soon as possible.  The sooner you cleanse your skin, the greater the chance that you can remove the plant oil or help prevent further spread.

Try over-the-counter treatments

Using an OTC skin cleanser such as Tecnu or Zanfel can help remove the urushiol oil on the skin. You may also want to try these other OTC treatments:

Oral antihistamines

Topical medications

Visit urgent care or a walk-in clinic, NOT the emergency room

Urgent care centers are equipped to handle non-life-threatening situations like poison ivy exposure, so use them over the emergency room to save time and money.

In addition to a rash, you may want to seek medical attention for the following scenarios:

Urgent care centers are staffed with qualified health care professionals including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and sometimes even pharmacists.  ER visits can be as much as 4 times the cost of an urgent care center or walk-in clinic which on average typically costs around $50 to $150.

Use GoodRx if you need a prescription for your poison ivy

If you seek medical treatment for your poison ivy rash you may be prescribed medications that will need to be filled at your pharmacy. The prescription medications used for a poison ivy rash will help decrease the inflammation, swelling, and itchiness it can cause, but they can be expensive.

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