Q. When I was a kid my parents always used calamine lotion for poison ivy. I hated the way it looked on my skin. Is there anything for poison ivy without the pink color?

A. Calamine lotion contains zinc and iron, which creates its distinctive appearance. One option might be Calaclear Lotion, which contains zinc and a local anesthetic, pramoxine, to ease itching. It is colorless.

Other readers have reported that milk of magnesia can ease the itch of a poison ivy rash. It goes on milky, then dries clear.

Prevention when possible is the best approach. If you know that you may be in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac, you may want to prepare before you go out. A barrier product made for the purpose such as Ivy Block or Stokoguard can be very helpful. Camping stores often carry such products.

If you suspect contact, washing well with soap and water as soon as possible will often prevent the rash from developing. Failing that, alcohol wipes can be used. Cleansing products such as Tecnu or Zanfel are marketed especially for removing urushiol (the irritating oil in these plants that causes the rash).

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  1. JBardell

    This is the cure for poison oak. I’m not sure it would work for poison ivy, of which I’ve had no personal experience. Poison oak usually starts with a few itchy blisters, and then seems to spread into the adjacent areas. If you rub the initial area of blisters with rubbing alcohol, the blisters dry up, and the process stops. Simple and effective.

  2. Sylvia S.

    Two days ago I discovered that the itching on my arm and neck was poison ivy although I had been SO careful around it while digging it up. The last time I contracted it, I had to take steroids. However, I had read about Milk of Magnesia so rubbed it onto all the rashy areas. Voila’—dried up, no itch and almost gone. It was not even name brand but Walmart MOM. PS–My husband uses MOM as his deodorant!!

  3. Peggy W.

    Oh, I’ve been waiting for an article like this one. I had poison ivy so bad on my arm. It was there for a life time….not really but a long time. I used clear calamine lotion. My sister in law saw my arm and told me, “Don’t use that stuff, it doesn’t help”. Well, she told me to use cortizone 10. Well, I did, and it was like nothing I had used before. The ivy was gone completely in 2 days. When I first put it on, it stung! But I grinned and bared it….I was so relieved!!!

  4. M.B.

    I have a copy of “Prevention Magazine” from the 1970’s which contains a letter that states that a poison ivy sufferer got immediate and long lasting relief by rubbing jewel weed all over the affected area. This certainly seems worth a try.

  5. rh

    I had a serious case of poison ivy several years ago on both hands and arms. I was pulling up “vines” and stuffing them into plastic bags. My hands and arms were so painful, the doctor prescribed narcotic pain medication and ice water compresses. The best thing I found to stop the itch and dry the blisters was the spray form of over the counter steroid in an alcohol base.
    Since that incident, I prevent any recurrence by washing with Fels Naptha bar soap as soon as possible after exposure and certainly within 3 hours.

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