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Poison Oak Remedies
updated: Jan 21, 2014, 7:45 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

What do local edhatters use for poison oak home remedies? I have been reading about everything from aloe vera to baking soda to straight up bleach. What is the most effective for you guys?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 487652P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 07:49 AM

Get some green clay and apply. It will help along with the healing effects of good old time.


 COMMENT 487653 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 07:50 AM

On a dog or on yourself? For a dog hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and water with some Dawn dish soap in the mix works the best. For humans Technu is the way to go. I have a lot of experience with this as my dog "loves" skunks and sometimes I get to be part of the "fun" too.


 COMMENT 487654 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 07:53 AM

There is no 'remedy' once you have the rash. To avoid the rash you must wash off the plant's oil within a few hours of contact. Any soap will do the trick.


 COMMENT 487656 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:07 AM

For washing off use "Technu" for rash symptoms I recommend "calogel". I buy it at Walgreens


 COMMENT 487659P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:15 AM

Abstinence, if you don't fool around with it it won't fool around with you.


 COMMENT 487660 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:15 AM

iah washing liquid cuts through oil..I have always washed with it if I think I have touched PO...


 COMMENT 487662 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:16 AM

Just don't itch it and don't have your cloths rub on it either. But home remedie is the good old sea water ocean it will dry it out.


 COMMENT 487665 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:19 AM

for the rash the best thing is to go to the beach. The salt water will burn like carzy but will dry up the rash very quickly. I had to do this when I was younger had the rash from head to toe. This was told to my parents by a great MD in Berkerly, CA. it worked after 4 treatments.


 COMMENT 487679P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 08:55 AM

Not a home remedy, but there's Benadryl gel - it's topical and once applied to the skin the itching stops instantly.


 COMMENT 487684 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:01 AM

Technu works great.


 COMMENT 487687 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:10 AM

Do not wash with hot or even warm water, doing so can release some of the poison and make it spread!!


 COMMENT 487690 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:18 AM

DermaPac HC. It's made in Goleta. Get it at drug stores. ask the pharmacist. Also GoJo hand cleaner works as good as Technu at half the price.


 COMMENT 487691 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:18 AM

I got a severe case of poison oak years ago after hiking in a burned out area that must have been covered with it. It just about drove me NUTS trying not to itch it. Whatever relief remedy you get, don't get a cream that you have to rub on. Oh, Lordy, once you get that rubbin' going, you are in for it. No stopping until it is bleeding!
When you hear all the recommendations for washing it off after exposure, take all of them but run don't walk to the shower/ocean. At this point I would use LYE to wash it off if I was guaranteed it would not result in the weeks long experience of poison oak.


 COMMENT 487703 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:29 AM

Message your doc, get prednisone script, take as directed.


 COMMENT 487704 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:29 AM

Hands down--"technu" at drug store. Actually removes the toxin/allergen. You can wash clothes or other things as well. We live in Los Padres forest & my husband always clearing around our house and has to be exposed. So he just showers with it after known exposure & he's good as new.


 COMMENT 487706 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:35 AM

Another vote for DermaPac HC. Great for the itch but doesn't heal it any faster or anything. Haven't heard of Technu...going to google it now!


 COMMENT 487713 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:48 AM

I'm getting over my worst case of poison oak ever and I've had it more than 30 times ! (my dog gives it to me). Zanfel is very good to not only remove all traces of oil that may still be on your skin (& keep it from spreading) but it's the best at relieving the intense itching. You can get it at CVS & it's expensive but after weeks of misery I considered the relief it gave me totally worth the price.

If its really bad go get a cortisone shot.


 COMMENT 487717P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:55 AM

Benadryl gel is cheap at Walmart and it really does work like magic for both inflammation and itching.


 COMMENT 487718P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:57 AM

Zanfel, over the counter, CVS


 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:04 AM

Benadryl is good if it's a mild case. If it gets bad you may need steroids.

Tecnu (that's the correct spelling) works very well to wash off the oils if you have touched it, much better than any home solution (bleach, paint thinner, epsom salts, you name it) I ever tried before it was available. But as others have said, it's only for washing off the oils before you actually get the rash, it's not a treatment for the rash. Once you get the rash, it's all about managing the itching and inflammation.


 COMMENT 487730 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:23 AM

I swear by Technu! After a hike, I dust myself off with a cloth rag, then wipe the technu on my legs and arms. I then wash the dog in his normal shampoo. So by the time I take a shower, the technu has done its job and I can just wash it off and be poison oak free! I have had poison oak many many times, but this routine has been my savior! The key is leaving the technu on your skin for a few minutes. Another factor is no hot-tubbing after exposure - the hot water opens your pours for the poison oak oils to really sink in!

As far as after the rash starts - there's no good answer. You can get steroids from your doctor or just take benedryl. The rash will run its course and there's not much you can do about it. Scratching will not cause it to spread...it takes about 3 weeks for it to go away!


 COMMENT 487735P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:33 AM

Benadryl gel is not something you "take" - you spread it on your skin and the itching stops instantly - afterwards, you won't even know you have poison oak. At least that's how it works for me, and I've had poison oak many times.


 COMMENT 487740 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:43 AM

Benadryl can also be taken orally, in pill form.


 COMMENT 487746P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:49 AM

Beware all advice you receive on the internet! (including mine) Do some follow up research before accepting someone telling you to pour bleach on your open wounds.

My personal experience is the best success is getting rid of the oil immediately upon exposure if possible. Carry some biodegradable PO soap if you can, to wash the oils off in the field. Shower with soap after hiking if there's any chance you were exposed. PO is not water soluble but friction and soap do a good job.

After a rash has broken out you can't spread it. It might appear you have because it breaks out unevenly - your left forearm might show the first signs of rash and a day later your belly - this does not mean you spread it by itching, just that there were different exposure levels and different levels of sensitivity for various skin areas.

In severe cases (for me this was when I had it on 60%+ of my face) go with the steroid prednisone if your doctor agrees.

For relief I find hot water, directed from a hand held shower nozzle, stops the itching for 2-4 hours at a time. Granted 5 showers a day isn't very drought conscious but it works. And it feels incredible as it releases histamine built up in the affected tissue. Just truth, no lye! :-)

Good luck!


 COMMENT 487750P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:54 AM

If you want to be sleepy, take oral Benadryl, if you want your skin to stop itching immediately use the topical gel.

Zanfel = $15.00

Banadryl gel = $4.95


 COMMENT 487798 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 12:40 PM

1.) Prevention - know what it looks like; with and without leaves.
2.) Treatment - Rinse with the hottest water you can stand and then spray with Derma-Pax. Oral benadryl might be useful at night when, at least for me, the itching seems worse.


 COMMENT 487838 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 01:39 PM

487746P, can I get more information about "biodegradable PO soap"? I googled it but I get info about post office boxes. Sounds like a handy thing for a hiker to be carrying.

I'd never heard of Technu - glad I read this post!


 COMMENT 487841P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 01:43 PM

Prednisone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, is used only in extreme cases of allergic reaction to the urushiol oil found in poison oak. If your case of poison oak is SO nasty, go the prescription-needed steroid route (prednisone). Inexpensive and effective, as prednisone knocks down the inflammation in nothing flat. Get tablets or get a shot.

Best anti-itch cream on the market is Gold Bond anti-itch cream. But, first, let's hope you know you've been exposed and can wash off that urushiol within 15+ minutes or so. Wash your clothing in hot water! Scrub down the canines!

You can get poison oak from the twigs/branches of the plant, too, so beware if you think being able to i.d. the "leaves of three, let it be" look is going to protect you. Best policy is not to hike where there's p.o., if you're allergic. Please note that you can inhale the urushiol toxin, during a burn, too.

I can testify to the hot water scrubbing being of help, once you've got the rash. I think oral Benedryl would be of help. And it sounds like the Zanfel gel is the way to go, topically.

As one poster already wrote: just avoid the stuff, and learning how to i.d. it is the first, best survival method. Once you've had poison oak, that "leaves of three" is burnt into your brain forever. Ain't Mother Nature great?


 COMMENT 487844 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 01:51 PM

If and when I get it, I use ice cubes directly on the rash until the itching need subsides, then enjoy relative relief for a while. As the desire to itch returns, I practice mind control and enjoy overcoming the "need" to itch as long as possible, before yielding and returning to the ice treatment. Overall, it's a pleasantly challenging experience, as my patience and self-control are tried and developed. After the rash runs its course, I'm left with a renewed appreciation for the area where the rash was. Honestly I'm surprised I don't roll around in the stuff, now that I think about it...


 COMMENT 487847 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 01:53 PM

Pee on it (the rash, not the plant).


 COMMENT 487852P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 01:58 PM

I checked it out, and Zanfel advertises itself as a "wash" - although it claims to give relief "in 30 seconds", none of the listed ingredients appear to be an antihistamine.

As I've already pointed out, Benadryl gel is much cheaper than Zanfel (4 Oz for $4.95 Vs. 1 Oz tube $15.00),

The OP has made it pretty clear that they ALREADY have a case of poison oak, so all the advice about prevention and different washes doesn't really seem helpful - for instant relief, NOTHING I've ever use even comes close to Benadryl gel. But if you want to wait maybe an hour for relief and feel drowsy, take oral Benadryl as others keep recommending.


 COMMENT 487878 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 02:57 PM

746 has it exactly right. Also, knowing what it looks like in the field and avoiding it, and keeping the dog on a leash are the best things you can do. Washing it off right after contact, even with just water will usually do it. I always shower and launder right after being out. Regular soap does just fine at breaking down the oil. A friend also taught me that mugwort grows around poison oak and will break down the oil. So learn to identify mugwort, and rub it on the exposed area. It works!

Once the oil is gone and the rash shows up, you can't spread it on yourself or to others. That's an old wives tale. I get it bad, so I'm just super careful - and if I do get it, only prednisone will stop it. I'm sensitive to oral antihistamines, so only topical Benadryl works and I can tolerate a little Claritin which helps. Basically you're dealing with a nasty allergic reaction, so think in those terms.


 COMMENT 487890 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 03:33 PM

@487838 - There's a PO (poison oak) bar soap in many local stores around town - I think it's a local company that makes it...Paradise Road Soap?? maybe...I could be wrong...


 COMMENT 487897 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 03:58 PM

After an excruciating exposure many years ago during an archaeological dig where I encountered the roots of the three-leaf monster, and got it ALL over me, I followed the best of the advice everybody offered. First, bath in COLD water with a non-scented dish soap designed to work on oils. Then when you rinse that off, without rubbing, pour white vinegar on affected areas and let it air dry. Sleep naked or minimally clothed. Do not scratch, even though it will drive you mad. You can repeat the bath/vinegar routine (nota bene: NOT colored vinegar, just clear, white) as needed during the week. The following week, it gets better. Stay cool, because sweat aggrevates it.

Back then, they didn't have Tecnu, so maybe that will work. But just count on two weeks of misery, but diminishing each day. I feel for you. Oh, and don't pet the dog, who should also be bathed in the dish soap for oils. It makes them fluffy, for a while.


 COMMENT 487901 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 04:01 PM

Mugwart is natures own medicine for PO. If you go to yankeebarbareno com you'll see Jack Elliott's Santa Barbara Adventure blog and he has a great page on it...

Or simply search for Jack Elliott's Santa Barbara Adventure and mugwart its a great resource.


 COMMENT 487907P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 04:57 PM

I don't see the point of recommending old time remedies that don't work - when I was a kid the best thing available was calamine lotion - it wasn't worth a damn.

I've had poison oak on my wrists so bad that they were about 1/4 larger than normal - I put Benadryl gel on it and it was fine. Didn't need any pills, special soap or anything else to make things more complicated, just Benadryl gel.


 COMMENT 487952P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 06:40 PM

The special soap is to remove the oils before they bond with the skin and cause the allergic reaction.

Paradise Road Soap is a mugwort soap that is also biodegradable in case you want to use it in a creek or river.

I disagree with Smilodon about bathing first - that creates the chance to spread it if the oils are floating in the bath water. A shower should always be the first effort at removing the oils. And wash your hands first so you don't spread from your hands to more sensitive areas!


 COMMENT 487957P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 07:03 PM

At the risk of being repetitive, as only 2 or 3 people mentioned it, I'll agree that HOT water will numb the itch and not spread the irritation. And I mean HOT! Scalding, as much as you can take, you come out of the shower lobster-red. It works for other skin conditions if you can't stand the itch and this level of self-treatment is preferred to the itch. I've used the majority of items listed here, but not those specifically for poison oak.

I thought Dr. Andrew Recsei, inventor of Derma Pax, should be awarded a peace prize, but I'd have to pay hundreds of dollars to bathe or live in the stuff. I did get the opportunity to tell his son, Dr. Paul Recsei, how highly I thought of the product, and his father.

I tried the hot water when I had poison oak, I get a different condition occasionally. Long ago I used a topical steroidal cream for poison oak that I got horseback riding, as I was scratching in my sleep and it was oozing. Topical has to have less impact than oral steroids. If you have it on your face or other sensitive spots please get medical advice.

The hot water may make you swoon and enunciate. It's an orgasmic, white light, crawl-out-of-your-skin sensation, as the person who suggested it to me told me. I had no itch for hours afterward.


 COMMENT 487993P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 09:54 PM

Scalding hot water? Well, that settles it - don't follow any advice here unless you want to end up in the burn ward! (Or, you could just try Benadryl gel if you only have an ordinary case of poison oak;-)


 COMMENT 487995P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:12 PM

Learn to recognize the plant in all seasons, including the leafless, woody stems, as they can also cause the rash. If you do not contact the plant, you will not get the rash (but indirect contact, as from a dog that's run through it, will affect you).
Many professionals use Technu - I have not yet tried it. Immediately shower and soap well if contact has been made. Throw all clothing in the wash. Do not let clothing touch anything else. Remember your shoes may have it, too. Throw them away or wash them.
If the rash shows up and you are one of the people who gets PO badly, immediately begin hydrocortisone cream treatment. This can be purchased over the counter. I apply it once per hour until the rash begins to become static (in other words is not getting worse by the hour), then I back off to 2 -3 applications per day. For people who are sensitive, PO can be life threatening. There is no "natural" treatment for them. It is imperative to go straight to the cortisone!
Many people do not get it badly at first, but with repeated contact, become more and more sensitive to it.
Good luck!


 COMMENT 487998P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-21 10:51 PM

For the umpteenth time, you don't need scalding water or cortisone or anything else but Benadryl gel - I swear I don't know why people insist on making this so damn complicated.

If the OP had a severe case of PO, does anyone really think they'd be asking for advice here on edhat instead of going to the doctor? Really? I don't think so.


 COMMENT 488021 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 07:46 AM

I had a mild case on my inner wrist area that I was getting relief from using a CVS cream of oatmeal, aloe Vera, vit E & 1% cortisone. 2 weeks later I got intense itching on my inner thighs. I put cream on it & got relief after application but each day the area of baboon butt redness became larger until it got so close to my "tender parts" that I had to go get a prednisone shot "and" the pills. I had it for 6 weeks !

Yes, the intense itching & learning to scratch without breaking the skin became an altered state of consciousness for me. It heightened ALL my senses.

The lesson here is to make sure you have showered yourself and your "DOG" with (dish) soap designed to cut oil & hot water launder your clothes & SHOES too. I unknowingly had residual oil on my skin and I was spreading it around with the cream & making it so much worse.


 COMMENT 488023 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 07:51 AM

go and buy a jar of strydex acne pads and clean the affected areas ASAP. Then again as they itch. If you catch it soon enough, it will prevent it from erupting. If its already manifesting itself, the pads drastically reduce the reaction and the speed the recovery. Magic!


 COMMENT 488025 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 08:06 AM

In the past I seemed to have had it constantly. Mental control helped, truly.
In the field, I have used mugwort leaves, crushed and vigorously rubbed into the point of contact. Can't say it doesn't work.
Technu says to use cool water, the colderr the better.
Smilidon is the genus for Saber-toothed Cat.


 COMMENT 488035 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 08:28 AM

jock itch cream, works great!


 TRINA agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 09:07 AM

After possible exposure undress in front of your washer and toss in all your clothes --having left your shoes outside. Shower and wash hair in cold water. PO can be transferred from someone's clothing that you might carry for them not knowing they had been exposed to PO.


 COMMENT 488054 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 09:07 AM

Hot water is not the remedy for most. The one time I got a bad case of Poison Oak, hot water felt great. It was like itching the sites without rubbing or scratching. The problem was (without any anti-inflamatory medication) the hot water caused a systemic reaction which turned into hives. This latter reaction can be dangerous because it can affect airways and other organs. Stick to the anti inflamatory medication and the topical applications that dry out the sites and reduce the spreading,weeping and itching of any rash. Once I had a gardener who said he used gasoline as a skin drying agent. That might work but sounded a little dangerous to me.


 MICRODOC agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 09:14 AM

Paradise Soap and Tecnu. Both available locally...


 COMMENT 488087 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 09:51 AM

Tecnu and or time. There are few things worse than being covered in poison oak and crawling around in a 110 degree attic with lots of fiberglass. At that point all you can do is grin and bear it.


 COMMENT 488116P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 10:40 AM

revisiting the hot water remedy; this is only for after the oils are gone and the itching has begun. No spreading, no systemic reaction, just itch relief.

And while you get more relief from hotter water, using the word scalding is incorrect. you don't want to trade a rash for 2nd and 3rd degree burns. being able to focus the water with a hand held shower head is the best system.


 COMMENT 488152P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 11:55 AM

You might try capsaicin for the itch. It works pretty good for insect bites.


 COMMENT 488168 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 12:26 PM

This may have been mentioned, Mountain Air Sports and other local retailers sell the poison oak soap...best to apply within an hour of exposure though.


 COMMENT 488170 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 12:31 PM

We found out by accident-mom had it bad and we went claming at Pismo beach…the ocean salt water really helped it clear up. After that we always used warm salt water packs


 COMMENT 488206 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 01:32 PM

Once upon a time I went hiking on Santa Cruz Island and way up on the side of the "Devil's Peak" mountain there is a pool of water that looks like very back tea ............. eons of oak and poison oak leaves falling into it making a tannin soup. The guide wove the tale of how the Chumash dipped their babies in it, and had children swim in it, to affect immunity. Might be a little bit like the Achilles story, but hey, since no one has brought up creating resistance in advance I thought I'd pass that one along.


 COMMENT 488249 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-22 02:50 PM

The real historic Chumash from centuries ago made a tea out of a plant, I believe it was silver leaf, which grew in and around Poison Oak bushes. By drnking this tea it is said they immunized themselves from contracting sever poison Oak outbreaks.


 COMMENT 488386 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-23 07:07 AM

Ivarest works really, really well. Also, try using a hair dryer aimed at the rash, the heat relieves the immediate itch and it's more drought friendly than using hot water.


 COMMENT 488441 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-23 09:05 AM

Steroids and hot water....ROFLMAO

Hot water will disperse/spread the oil. Not a god idea.

Steroids? Should be no need to explain why they are bad.

For those needing a technological fix, Technu soap is designed to remove the problematic oils. The also make a barrier cream for use pre-exposure. I use oatmeal soap. If you don't remove the oils within a couple hours, you will show symptoms unless you are less susceptible than average. Mugwort will bind the oils and remove them from your skin if used not long after exposure. Vinegar and sea water will sooth the itch and promote drying. I self innoculate because i expose myself at least once a week, but won't put the info here because there are too many misguided lunatics. (Run with that one trolls, run run run away)


 COMMENT 488749P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-23 06:55 PM

everybody's chemistry is different; different treatments work for different people in most cases except bacteria that are specifically tested to be sensitive to the "right" drug. I use as hot as you can stand water, no burns. low trickle, doubt it wastes water.


 COMMENT 488751P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-01-23 07:02 PM

also, I'm glad you've never had a condition so bad that you needed steroids. yeah, almost everyone would live through it, but with these drugs available, should horribly affected people be made to do so?


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