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Mupirocin for poison ivy: Does it work?

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Does it work?Meds for poison ivyUses of mupirocinMupirocin for rashesSummary
You can develop an allergic reaction and extremely itchy rash if exposed to poison ivy. While this rash usually resolves on its own, oral and topical steroids may provide some symptom relief. Antibiotics like mupirocin will have little to no effect.
Medically reviewed by Jennie Olopaade, PharmD, RPH
Written by Mathieu Rees
Updated on November 1, 2023

Poison ivy is a plant that grows in North America. You may develop an allergic reaction if your skin comes into contact with its leaves, stems, or roots.

An allergic reaction can develop in response to urushiol, an oily resin present in poison ivy. Other plants also produce urushiol, including poison oak and poison sumac.

Mupirocin is an antibiotic available as a topical cream or ointment that treats bacterial skin infections.

Does mupirocin work for poison ivy?

Mupirocin is an antibiotic. It isn’t a treatment for poison ivy rash because the rash is an allergic reaction and not a bacterial infection.  

What medications are most effective for poison ivy?

Woman hiking after being exposed to poison ivy and wondering if mupirocin will help
piola666/Getty Images

Poison ivy rash usually goes away on its own, but it can take weeks to resolve.

Treatments for poison ivy rash aim to relieve symptoms like severe itching.

Because a poison ivy rash doesn’t involve the release of histamines, natural chemicals the body can produce during an allergic reaction, antihistamines aren’t an effective treatment for this type of rash. In some cases, antihistamines may even worsen a poison ivy rash.

Oral glucocorticoids are usually the first-line treatment for poison ivy rash. These include:

Betamethasone (Sernivo) is another topical steroid cream that can reduce itching but can cause skin damage with prolonged use:

If your poison ivy rash is severe, a doctor may recommend a one-off steroid injection.

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Common uses of mupirocin

Mupirocin can be an effective treatment for bacterial infections like:

  • staphylococcal (staph)
  • streptococcal (strep)
  • listeriosis
  • enterococcal
  • Clostridioides difficile (C. diff)

Can you use mupirocin ointment on itchy rashes?

Staph infections can cause Ritter disease, a skin condition that causes a tender, itchy blister rash.

Healthcare professionals may prescribe mupirocin to treat Ritter disease resulting from a staph infection.

Additionally, strep and staph infections can both cause impetigo. This skin condition causes itchy plaques. It typically affects children who live in hot and humid climates. Doctors can treat impetigo with mupirocin.


Mupirocin is a topical antibiotic available as a cream or ointment. Doctors commonly prescribe it to treat skin conditions resulting from strep or staph bacterial infections.

As an antibiotic, mupirocin is not a suitable treatment for poison ivy rash.

This type of rash usually resolves on its own. However, glucocorticoids may help with symptom relief.

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