Warning: the substance described in this article has neither sought nor earned Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as a legitimate, effective cure for any condition (although it claims to be effective as an antipruritic, targeting with particular effectiveness rashes caused by poison ivy and bug bites). In 1992, the FDA added calamine lotion to a list of chemicals it was considering banning, on the grounds that they were ineffectual, and therefore that their sale as a medicine was tantamount to fraud.
“Calamine lotion” is the name given to a number of substances that are marketed as effective cures for pruritic conditions (itching, in other words). It is a mixture of Zinc Oxide with Iron (III) Oxide, and its stated purpose is to serve as an alternative to anti-itching drugs currently available on the market. Calamine lotion is not owned by any one drug manufacturer, but is instead marketed by a number of smaller manufacturers as a generic, over the counter drug. It is available at most pharmacies.
Generally, calamine lotion is sold in the form of a cream or a lotion. This makes it easy and comfortable to apply to the skin, particularly in swollen or inflamed areas. It has a cooling and extremely soothing effect on the skin when it is applied, and the antiseptic properties of the zinc in the calamine help to ward off infection from scratching. It is intended for use against itching in general, and in particular for the itching that results from poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, eczema, or lice infections.
Calamine should not be used by those who are allergic. If you are unsure of what you are allergic to, or have never had an allergy test performed, be sure to contact your doctor before using calamine lotion or cream. Very few people are allergic to calamine, but it is always better to be safe, and go to the allergist, than to be sorry, and spend a night in the hospital.
Calamine is not known to interact with any other medications, so as a general rule of thumb it is safe to use in conjunction with other medications. Obviously, if you have serious health issues, or any questions in general, it is again wisest to go to the doctor now, rather than the emergency room later. There are no known damaging effects from calamine use during pregnancy, either to the mother or the child, nor are any known of during breast feeding.