Milk of Magnesia or Calamine for Poison Ivy

Can milk of magnesia or Calamine Lotion be used to treat poison ivy?

Poison ivy is a wicked plant. Just brushing against it can leave a hapless gardener or innocent passer by with itching and rash. The plant produces urushiol, a clear liquid compound found in the sap that binds to the skin on contact. Repeated exposure can lower sensitivity, as the immune system learns how to respond, but that’s a painful approach.

Treatment takes two forms. The first step is stop the urushiol from reacting with the skin – there isn’t much time for this – and the second step is to reduce the itching and blistering.

Urushiol is an oil, so it can be removed from the skin with soap and water. To reduce the itching, antihistamines can be taken orally or as a cream. Hydrocortisone creams will also alleviate symptoms.

As the itching is a symptom of a systemic reaction of the immune system, there’s not much that can be done to relieve it. Ice or cold water can reduce inflammation and itching, but evidence for other remedies is scant or negative.

Calamine lotion is useless for relieving pain and itching. Its active ingredients, zinc oxide and ferric oxide, do not help – although it may provide a soothing, cooling sensation while it dries to a white residue on the skin, and could help protect moist lesions. The same goes for Milk of Magnesia; it may feel good for a few minutes, but it won’t really help.

Treatment for poison ivy remains straightforward and unsatisfactory: as soon as possible, wash with soap and water. Let the blisters alone to heal; don’t break them. Cold water or creams may reduce inflammation and soothe itching.

By all means, reach for Milk of Magnesia or Calamine lotion if those sores are weeping. Just don’t expect miracles.

In the end, the best treatment for poison ivy is avoidance. Learn to spot it and then keep away.


This entry was posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 10:36 pm and is filed under health, home remedies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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