Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

To help reduce itching and soothe inflamed skin, try these self-care approaches:

  • Avoid the irritant or allergen. The key to this is identifying what's causing your rash and staying away from it. Your doctor may give you a list of products that typically contain the substance that affects you. Also ask for a list of products that are free of the substance that affects you.

    If you're allergic to the metal in a piece of jewelry, you may be able to wear it by putting a barrier between you and the metal. For example, line the inside of a bracelet with a piece of clear tape or paint it with clear nail polish.

  • Apply an anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area. A nonprescription cream containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve your itch. A steroid ointment may be applied one or two times a day for two to four weeks. Or try calamine lotion.
  • Take an oral anti-itch drug. A nonprescription oral corticosteroid or antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), may be helpful if your itching is severe.
  • Apply cool, wet compresses. Moisten soft washcloths and hold them against the rash to soothe your skin for 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat several times a day.
  • Avoid scratching. Trim your nails. If you can't keep from scratching an itchy area, cover it with a dressing.
  • Soak in a comfortably cool bath. Sprinkle the water with baking soda or an oatmeal-based bath product.
  • Protect your hands. Rinse and dry hands well and gently after washing. Use moisturizers throughout the day. And choose gloves based on what you're protecting your hands from. For example, plastic gloves lined with cotton are good if your hands are often wet.

Prevention

General prevention steps include the following:

  • Avoid irritants and allergens. Try to identify and avoid substances that irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Wash your skin. You might be able to remove most of the rash-causing substance if you wash your skin right away after coming into contact with it. Use a mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water. Rinse completely. Also wash any clothing or other items that may have come into contact with a plant allergen, such as poison ivy.
  • Wear protective clothing or gloves. Face masks, goggles, gloves and other protective items can shield you from irritating substances, including household cleansers.
  • Apply an iron-on patch to cover metal fasteners next to your skin. This can help you avoid a reaction to jean snaps, for example.
  • Apply a barrier cream or gel. These products can provide a protective layer for your skin. For example, an over-the-counter skin cream containing bentoquatam (IvyBlock) may prevent or lessen your skin's reaction to poison ivy.
  • Use moisturizer. Regularly applying moisturizing lotions can help restore your skin's outermost layer and keep your skin supple.
  • Take care around pets. Allergens from plants, such as poison ivy, can cling to pets and then be spread to people.