a shower head spraying hot water

Q. I had poison ivy all over my leg and nothing I tried for it seemed to help much. It may sound crazy, but I noticed that when I got in a hot shower, the hot water felt good on the rash, kind of like I was scratching it.
I found that after putting hot water on it, the poison ivy didn’t itch for a while. So I turned up the heat as hot as I could stand it and held it there as long as I could stand. When I got out, it didn’t itch anymore.
A. Hot water (hot enough to be uncomfortable but not so hot as to burn) can ease itching for hours. It works for poison ivy and insect bites, but not hives. Another reader shared this experience:

“Your hot water remedy for mosquito bites was amazing! I tried all sorts of anti-itch creams, and none worked as well as a wet towel, 30 seconds in the microwave, and a minute on the bites. I wish I knew about this a long time ago.”

Another reader found a different surprising remedy for poison ivy itching:

“I heard about milk of magnesia last week on the radio program, just as I was having a bad breakout of poison ivy on my legs. As I am very allergic to poison ivy and calamine lotion doesn’t work very well, I was curious to give it a try. Result, it relieved the itching and quickly dried up the oozing sections.”

Join Over 65,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Ian

    The hot water feels unbelievably good on the poison ivy rash I almost want the itch to come back so I can do it again

  2. April

    My grandmother had told me about this “home remedy” she’d read in a book of home remedies. Frankly, I thought it sounded nuts! However, recently I’ve somehow managed to get poison ivy on BOTH palms of my hands! The hot water (hot as you can stand it) gives a good 4-6 hours of itch relief! Your fingertips and palms have a ton of nerve endings, and the itching is relentless!
    I have to mention though, when first applying the hot water, the initial reaction was extremely intense. I finally found the section in the book my grandmother was referencing and it said this “intense” sensation was the release of histamine from beneath the skin. It went on to say it takes four plus hours for histamine to build back up in the area. Wow! What an odd treatment! Then again, given the odd area of my rash… that’s about how my luck goes! Lol! Does anyone know how long the rash is gonna hang around?

  3. Shane

    This is not true. Hot water should not be used to wash off the poison ivy oils, but once you have cleaned with cold water and soap or a poison ivy cleaner, using hot water is safe, incredibly effective, and even speeds up recovery because you are not scratching open the blisters and causing infections. I have been a professional landscape gardener for 12 years and am very allergic. Have tried all remedies and have spent the 35 dollars on zanfel, which is semi effective, and only hot water works. It work amazingly and feels so good on application. I have a detachable shower head just for the purpose! I knew hot water was great for this when younger but was told it would spread the rash and make it worse. This is not true.

  4. Review Outlaw

    To stop itching,
    1 Put the itchy part under Extremely Hot Water.
    2 For 1 to 2 Sec.
    3 It will stun the nerve endings and will stop the itching,
    4 the Pain will go away from the hot part in 30sec’s and it will feel better for 4-5 hours.
    5. a video guide on what to do https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peDE_6T4p3Q

  5. To

    Hot water on poison ivy is a miracle worker Stops itching up to six hours. I ran the water is hot as possible directly on the poison ivy as long as I can stand.

  6. jh

    The hot shower provides amazing relief. Also, the pleasure/sensation on impact is beyond words.

  7. JL

    Several years ago I had poison ivy on my face so bad that fluid was dripping off my face. I had heard vitamin E might help so I punctured a Vitamin E gel cap and patted that liquid over my face. I got relief right away and by the next morning all sign of the poison ivy was gone.

  8. JL

    I learned of the hot water remedy years ago. It worked for me, stopped itching for a few hours, then repeated hot water treatment. I believe poison ivy cleared up more quickly with this treatment.

  9. PP

    I have found that a hair drier does the same thing w/o the need to get wet.

  10. JC

    I’d always heard that this works, but actually causes the reaction to worsen, as the hot water speeds up the biochemical response in the skin to prolong and worsen the underlying reaction, resulting in immediate relief, but worse outcome overall. Just the same as scratching provides immediate relief, but worsens the rash.

    • chris
      United States

      This fun and all but if you do this for too long you will replace ivy blisters with burn blisters. You can scald the area pretty easy because the heat feels so insanely good.

  11. Marilyn B.

    The last time I had poison ivy, a pharmacist recommended an ointment called “Zanfel”, saying that it was the only one sold “over the counter” that would really stop the itching. It worked! It is expensive ($35 for a 1-oz. tube) but, for me, the immediate and permanent relief from itching was well worth it.

  12. RC1956

    Colloidal oatmeal baths will relieve itching very well. I used it on my kids when they had chicken pox, sunburn, diaper rash, etc. If the itching is unrelenting, doctors will prescribe steroids usually on a sliding scale basis.

  13. RLH

    Thank you Terry and Joe! Several years ago now while moving I decided to pull up some iris bulbs from the garden to take with me. Little did I know that I had gotten into poison ivy. I was wearing overalls so as I used the bathroom I pulled the overalls up and down my body covering myself with poison ivy! In acute desperation (even after going to the doctor and getting a prescription for the itching) in the middle of the night (itching so acute it was keeping me from sleeping!) I started racking my brain (to keep me from going crazy) I remembered a book by the you guys that I had.
    I looked up the hot water poison ivy remedy. I had to use hot towels from the microwave to cover both of my legs and arms (the hot shower wasn’t hot enough) but I got blessed relief and was able to finally get some sleep! The hot towels relieved the itching for exactly 4 hours just as the Graedons said it would. Now I am very sensitive to poison ivy but have no worries if I accidentally get a little on me. Thanks Terry and Joe I am now a true believer and your books are my first line of defense for issues or problems. Thanks for all of the great work you guys do!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.