Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Adult Skin Problems Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSkin Pictures Slideshow: Summer Skin Hazards

Skin Pictures Slideshow: Summer Skin Hazards

What are symptoms and signs of a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

Susceptible people will develop the characteristic rash after exposure to the urushiol from these plants, typically within 12-72 hours after the initial contact. The signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Itching of the skin
  • An outbreak of small or large blisters

The rash may appear bumpy, streaky, linear or patchy, and it will affect the areas that have come into contact with the oil resin. Areas that have been exposed to a larger amount of urushiol may develop the rash more quickly, and the rash may appear more severe. In some instances, new lesions may continue to appear for up to two to three weeks. One can spread the rash to other parts of the body if one's contaminated hands (with the oil resin) touch other areas. The fluid that sometimes oozes from the blisters does not contain urushiol and therefore does not spread the rash, and other individuals who touch this fluid will not develop the rash. In order to spread the rash to someone else, they must directly come into contact with the oil resin. Generally speaking, the rash slowly improves and disappears after one to three weeks in most individuals. Overall, the symptoms may range from mild to severe. Rarely, in extreme cases, an anaphylactic reaction can develop.

Picture of a poison oak rash
Picture of a poison oak rash; SOURCE: CDC

If these plants are burned, the airborne particles of urushiol can be inhaled, causing respiratory difficulty from irritation of the lungs. Occasionally, this reaction can be severe.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/20/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac - Treatment

    What treatments were effective for your poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Poison Ivy, Sumac, and Oak - Home Remedies

    What home remedies helped alleviate the symptoms and sign of your poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

    Post View 8 Comments
  • Poison Ivy - Experience

    Please describe your experience with poison ivy.

    Post View 3 Comments
  • Poison Ivy - Symptoms and Signs

    What symptoms and signs were associated with your poison ivy rash?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Poison Ivy - Prevention

    What do you do prevent exposure to poisonous plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac?

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors