Uses for Calamine Lotion and How to Apply
Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that’s used to treat mild itchiness, also called pruritus. It can also help dry out oozing skin irritations.
This soothing pink lotion can help relieve the following skin conditions:
- reactions to poisonous plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac
- insect bites
- swimmer’s itch
- chigger bites
- minor burns
Keep reading to learn more about calamine lotion, the skin conditions it can be used for, and how to apply.
Calamine and poisonous plants
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends applying topical OTC medications, such as calamine, to relieve itching caused by poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak.
According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to relieving the itching and discomfort caused by these plants, calamine lotion can help dry out the weeping and oozing of those skin irritations.
Calamine and bug bites
To address mild reactions to bug bites and stings, Mayo Clinic suggests applying calamine lotion to the area several times daily. This can be done until symptoms of the bite or sting are gone.
As alternatives to calamine lotion, you can use a baking soda paste or 0.5 to 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. If topical treatments aren’t effective, consider taking an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl.
Calamine and chickenpox
To help relieve the itching from chickenpox, the CDC recommends taking a cool bath with added baking soda or colloidal oatmeal and then applying calamine lotion.
Calamine and shingles
Antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir and famciclovir, can help shorten the length and severity of shingles. Along with these medications, the CDC suggests using calamine lotion and other self-care measures to help with the pain and itch, such as:
- wet compresses
- colloidal oatmeal baths
- pain relievers
Calamine and swimmer’s itch
If you wade or swim in waters infested with certain parasites you can get a rash called swimmer’s itch. According to NYC Health, you risk infection if you scratch. So, to help minimize the itch, they recommend:
- calamine lotion
- corticosteroid creams
- colloidal oatmeal baths
Calamine and scabies
To ease itching from scabies, a skin condition caused by a small mite, you may find relief by using calamine lotion and soaking in a cool bath. Keep in mind, calamine lotion will only treat the symptoms of scabies, it will not kill the mites or their eggs.
If the itching is very bad, ask your doctor about taking an oral antihistamine.
Here are other important steps to take when treating scabies:
- Wash clothes, towels, and bedding in hot water.
- Dry the washed items at 140°F or higher.
- Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture.
Calamine and chigger bites
Chiggers are mites that feed on human skin. They cause skin irritation, welts, and itching. If you think you’ve been bitten by a chigger, wash the bite with soap and water and then apply some calamine lotion to help relieve itching.
Other ways to relieve itching could include cool compresses or OTC anti-itch cream. Scratching the bites could lead to infection.
Calamine and minor burns
Calamine may offer topical relief for many skin irritations, including minor burns.
How to use calamine lotion
Calamine lotion is intended for external use only.
CALAMINE LOTION SHOULDN’T BE…
- used on eyes
- used on mucous membranes, such as inside the nose, mouth, anal area, or genitals
You can use calamine lotion on children, but be sure to safely store it and keep away from children when not in use.
If you get calamine lotion in your eyes, mouth, or other non-recommended areas, flush with lots of water. If swallowed, go to a poison control center.
Side effects of calamine lotion
There are very few adverse effects associated with calamine lotion. However, if you experience skin irritation, stop using it, and talk with your doctor about an alternative medication.
When to see a doctor
When using calamine lotion, see a doctor if:
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms last more than 7 days
- your symptoms clear up but come back after a few days
If you have a serious allergic reaction — which is rare — such as hives and swelling of your face, tongue, or throat, seek immediate medical help.
Contact a poison control center right away if calamine lotion has been swallowed.
What calamine lotion is made of
The active ingredient in calamine lotion is a combination of zinc oxide and 0.5% iron (ferric) oxide. The iron oxide gives it its identifying pink color.
Calamine lotion also typically includes inactive ingredients, such as:
- purified water
- calcium hydroxide
- bentonite magma
Calamine is available over the counter as a generic medication. It’s on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines under anti-inflammatory and anti-itch medicine, along with:
Calamine lotion is a widely available OTC topical medication that can help relieve itching caused by minor skin irritations. It can also help dry out oozing and weeping from reactions to poisonous plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac.
Calamine lotion isn’t a cure, but it can help relieve symptoms. It should only be used externally and has very few adverse effects.
If accidentally swallowed, call poison control center or visit a center immediately.