Best poison oak remedy?

I was hiking in Pt. Reyes, CA and came down with what I believe is poision oak: a red, itchy rash on my forearm. It has een there for 6 days and is still itchy and seems to be moving around, if not spreading a bit. I took a shower with a soap designed to remove the oils but it is not too improved. What is the natural course of this and what are some ways to alleviate symptoms and shorten the duration of the rash? Fnally, does itching spread the rash? Thanks…

I have been around Poison ivy/oak for years with never a problem.
Couple years ago I got it real bad. I had been weed eating while wearing shorts… I had several small open cuts on my legs… In about a week or so I knew what I had. My doctor said I must have got it in my blood stream… he gave me a Cortisone cream. But it didn’t help! I tried several drug store recommendations but nothing helped

Then I searched Poison ivy / oak… found a site about “Zanfel”. Sounded very convincing but like everything on the internet I wasn’t believing it all. Still I was ready to try anything. None was available here local so I drove 50 miles to buy some. The first treatment cured me! From now on I will keep a supply of Zanfel, it has a 10 year shelf life. May not work for everyone but it sure cured me.

Hot water, just as hot as you can stand it . Will help the itch. Just be careful and don’t burn yourself. As for scratching and spreading the rash, not as long as the oils are gone.

Depends on the severity. Topical steroids are good if there is no secondary infection at the site. Diphenhydramine is useful in combatting the itch. Don’t cover it up, don’t scratch it. Let it open to the air as much as possible. If complications seem to be arising, consult a doctor.


Zanfel did just what it said it would. Believe me I had it bad. All over my feet and legs to above my knees. I was miserable!

The next time I saw my doctor I told him about Zanfel.

Go here for more info.

I used Zanfel as well. It is kind of difficult to find. I had to go to a store that was out-of-the-way. It was well worth it however. I was miserable and itching pretty badly. Zanfel gives you immediate relief. I used it twice over a period of 8 -10 hours and the rash was still there but the itching was almost cured.

Zanfel is a little pricey.

I have also had some success with epsom salt. Just get in the shower and dump a little in the palm of your hand. Rub / wash the rash with the salt. It stings a little if you have scratched so much that you have torn tissue. But … for me, the stinging was less uncomfortable than the itching. Let the salt just sit on the rash for a couple of minutes. Oh and warm water in the beginning of the shower and cooler water right before you get out.

Do not use epsom salt if you are a diabetic.
Good luck. Hope you get some relief soon.

I find fazanel and nazafel more effective. I’ll take your word that the stuff works for you, but the webpage paints a picture of pure snake oil (light on data, heavy on testimonials).

What cures poison ivy / oak is a shot of cortisone, which you can get from your doctor if you have a bad case. I got it about a year ago bad enough to get a shot, and by the next day I was fine.

Leaving it alone, it takes three weeks to heal. If you’ve already had it for six days, you have another two weeks to go. It’s no fun.

I tried Zanfel last year, and didn’t notice any benefits. The stuff is coarse, so just the act of scrubbing it on your skin provides some relief for the itching. But the rash didn’t go away, at least for me, and the relief didn’t last longer than a few minutes. The product claims to remove the oils from your skin, which to me sets off my BS detector. Everything I’ve read about poison ivy / oak says that after a half-hour or so, the oils are set into your skin and can’t be removed or further spread. (This also answers your other question - scratching doesn’t spread it).

By now, it’s gotten far enough that you can’t cure it, just treat it and let it run its course. Cortisone creams or calamine lotion will help, and anything that stops the itching will help. For future reference, though, you can cure it if you act quickly enough, immediately when you first notice the itching or sooner (usually within about an hour after exposure). The simplest treatment, and one of the most effective at that point, is just to wash up very thoroughly with soap and hot water. You don’t even need special soap for it (if you’re quick enough for soap to work at all), any soap will do.

From someone who is hyperallergic, you have my sympathies. I used to get poison ivy so bad growing up as a kid in the midwest I required hospital visits!

My cure?

Move to Europe (no poison ivy) or Nevada (no poison ivy).

I am glad to hear there are now new treatments. Once when I was a kid, a doctor once gave me a shot in February that was supposed to prevent me from getting poison ivy the following summer. You guessed it. The next day I was in the hospital with one of my worst cases of poison ivy - from the shot.

Really? Why not?

It says this on the box. I am not sure why. Somebody else could probably answer. I just wanted to point that out because I wouldn’t want someone to follow my suggestion and get themselves into a serious medical emergency.

Reeder nailed it. Hot water or actually heat in any form works wonders.

I run into poison ivy once or twice a year, but only recently have I learned about the beauty of heat to treat it. There is no need to use excessive heat. For example, when I’m at work and the itching starts, I pour a fresh cup of coffee in a mug (non-insulated) and hold the cup against the itch, usually with a layer of fabric between the cup and skin. It will feel like I’m scratching it, but after about 30 seconds the itch will go away and stay away for hours.

This is so effective for me that I will be interested to know if it doesn’t work for others.

It doesn’t. Your experience is not universal. Many people get a far worse itch from this approach, as it dilates blood vessels and causes additional swelling and infiltration of inflammatory cells into the already inflamed tissue and nerve fibers.

If it works for you, great. But it is not for everyone.


That may well be the case. Do you have any idea what the bio-mechanics are for what makes it work for some of us?

I don’t notice any itching or other symptoms for two days after the exposure, whenever I get it. I thought this was typical.

Tried Zanfel two years ago with negligible results. It actually seemed to make things more uncomfortable, because it over-dried the affected area and made the skin tighten up.

Hot water provides wonderful temporary relief of the itch for me.

Steroid shots seem to give mixed results. Some years ago I had one that completely relieved my symptoms in 24 hours. The last two I got were a waste of time – it still took a week for the rash to go away.