Doctors often prescribe anti-itch creams with hydrocortisone to relieve rashes from poison ivy and many other causes, such as contact dermatitis and eczema. You have many options to treat a rash without hydrocortisone -- from natural, herbal remedies to oatmeal baths and calamine lotion. The National Institutes of Health advise you to tell your physician you are allergic or sensitive to hydrocortisone if you're receiving treatment for a rash.
Creams or salves containing chamomile have the best evidence of providing relief for rashes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Other beneficial herbal lotions include chickweed, marigold and licorice. Calendula creams can be effective but should not be used on broken skin. Also, evening primrose oil taken as a supplement reduces rash in some cases.
Some time-honored itch relief remedies do not include hydrocortisone. MayoClinic.com recommends calamine lotion, which contains zinc oxide and ferric oxide. The National Institutes of Health recommends cool water baths with colloidal oatmeal to relieve widespread rashes. Witch hazel, which is a plant-based astringent, can also be effective at relieving skin rash.
MayoClinic.com provides some alternative remedies for poison ivy rash and similar allergic rashes, including bovine cartilage cream, which could clear the rash in one to two weeks. A 2002 study of patients who underwent laser skin resurfacing showed that bovine cartilage cream promoted healing of broken skin. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil taken as a supplement may reduce itching and rash associated with eczema. Creams containing St. John's Wort, Sarsaparilla and marshmallow may also relieve rash.
For occasional dermatitis and itching, MayoClinic.com advises that over-the-counter antihistamines, like Benadryl, can relieve itching. Benadryl, also called diphenhydramine, is found in creams and sprays for topical rash relief. For eczema or other rashes associated with allergies, medications called immunomodulators, which include tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel), can also be prescribed.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center; Dermatitis; Steven Ehrlich, March 2010
- Merck Home Health Manual; Itching; Peter Schalock; December 2006
- National Institutes of Health; Hydrocortisone Topical; October 2010
- "Dermatological Surgery"; The Effect of a Mucopolysaccharide-Cartilage Complex Healing Ointment on Laser Resurfaced Skin; Elizabeth Tanzi and Maritza Perez; April 2002