Can Milk Baths Be Used To Treat Poison Ivy?

When a pesky rash starts to reveal itself after a hike, it's a sure sign that you've inadvertently come into contact with poison ivy. Just brushing past this plant can result in skin irritation thanks to the oily resin urushiol, which poison ivy is coated in (via Mayo Clinic). This resin can stick to anything: clothes, shoes, camping equipment, and even your dog's fur (via Healthline).

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (via Delaware Online), around 85% of the population will have an allergic reaction to urushiol once it comes into contact with the skin. Thankfully, the rash it causes isn't contagious, but you can transfer the oil to other parts of your body if it's still on your fingers.

While there are preventative measures you can use like creams to coat the skin before going on a hike or camping, once a rash starts to develop, you're out of luck. Thankfully, there are plenty of soothing remedies to calm the itch, including soaking a damp cloth in whole milk and applying that to the area for 10 to 15 minutes. According to Homestead Creamery, the fat in the milk "lubricates the skin while the cold compress stops the itch." So what about soaking your skin in a milk bath?

Milk baths have the potential to sooth the itchiness of a poison ivy rash

While research "is limited on the effectiveness of milk baths on the treatment of skin conditions," according to Healthline, anecdotal evidence suggests that milk baths may soothe "redness, itchiness, and inflammation." But as board-certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel told Byrdie, "Milk has been used for centuries in bath form for its beauty benefits" as it can soothe and moisturize inflamed skin. However, medical and cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Melanie Palm warns that those with sensitive skin may find milk to be an irritant rather than a beneficial treatment.

Milk isn't the only thing you can soothe your poison ivy rash with, however. Oatmeal is often a go-to for relieving symptoms, as it's a "natural way to lock in the body's moisture, protect the skin, and soothe any irritation and itching" according to Verywell Family. Skincare brand Aveeno even has a dedicated colloidal oatmeal bath treatment which they suggest will "relieve itchy, irritated skin" with natural ingredients in a "milky bath" that can soothe the symptoms of poison ivy, as well as insect bites, sunburn, eczema, and other skin conditions.