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.

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Quick GuideSkin Risks: Summer Skin Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Skin Risks: Summer Skin Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Are there any home remedies for a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

As above, in the majority of cases, the symptoms can be controlled at home with the aforementioned medications/formulations until the rash resolves. Though different herbal folk remedies have been used in the past, no definite effective therapy can be recommended at this time.

What is the prognosis of a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

In general, the prognosis is excellent. In the vast majority of cases, the rash will improve on its own within one to three weeks without any complications, and all that may be necessary is self-care at home with treatment to relieve the itching.

Is it possible to prevent a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

There are measures that can be taken to help prevent the rash caused by exposure to these plants, including the following:

  • Learn to recognize these plants in order to avoid contact with them.
  • Wear protective clothing that covers the skin, including gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and boots if in a high-risk area.
  • If the possibility of contact with these plants exists, apply commercially available barrier creams to the skin, which may help prevent or lessen the exposure to the toxic plant oils. These products usually contain bentoquatam (IvyBlock) and should be applied before going outdoors.
  • Do not burn these plants, as this can release urushiol into the air.
  • Carefully remove these plants if they are growing near one's home. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves.
  • Thoroughly wash clothing or any other objects that may have come into contact with these plants, as they can retain the plant oil and cause a rash if worn or touched.
  • If a pet has been exposed to these plants, wear protective gloves and give them a bath.

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Dermatology. "Poison ivy, oak, and sumac." <http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/poison-ivy>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Poisonous Plants." July 21, 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/20/2015

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