A poison ivy rash can be an itchy nightmare, especially in younger victims. There are a number of ways to treat a poison ivy rash; all of these techniques can also be used on rashes caused by poison oak and poison sumac, since these rashes are all caused by the same toxic substance. You should be aware that if a poison icy rash spreads over a large portion of your body, you should see a doctor. It is also important to see a doctor if the rash appears on your face, or if the blisters which may be associated with the rash get especially large.
If you know that you have been exposed to a plant with the toxic compound urushiol, such as poison oak, ivy, or sumac, immediately wash yourself with a solvent which can remove the compound. Some stores sell special washes for urushiol contact, but you can also use lukewarm water and soap. You should also wash clothing and tools, because the compound can endure for years. Pets are not exempt from the washing either, as they may carry the urushiol on their fur.
If a rash appears, it will start out as a red, itchy area which may be marked by bumps. Try to avoid touching the rash, as you can cause it to spread by picking up lingering urushiol. You can also cause a skin infection by deep scratching. Alleviate itching and burning with cool compresses or ice, and if the itching becomes unbearable, slap the rash, rather than scratching it. Incidentally, the slapping technique also works on itchy tattoos.
You can soothe your irritated skin with a long soak in a bath with baking soda, oatmeal, or epsom salts. In some cases, you may be able to find a bath product specifically designed for poison ivy rash. You can also use things like oatmeal and baking soda to make a paste to spread on the rash, or you might want to think about anti-itch creams. The best anti-itch creams have a drying agent such as calamine or zinc acetate to help dry up the blisters, accelerating healing.
Oral antihistamines can also help reduce swelling and pain associated with the rash. Some, such as Benadryl, are available over the counter, or a doctor can prescribe a stronger treatment. In some cases, a doctor may also offer an allergy shot, especially if the rash is extremely large or painful. You may also want to wear gloves at night, so you do not end up scratching the poison ivy rash while you sleep. Try to keep a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash exposed to air as much as possible to promote fast healing.