Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac - Treatment

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

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What is the treatment for a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash?

The initial treatment for someone who has recently been exposed to any of these plants includes rinsing the affected area with copious amounts of water within 20-30 minutes of exposure to remove the oily plant resin. The effectiveness of rinsing decreases with the passage of time. Some authorities recommend rinsing with rubbing alcohol or using commercially available poisonous plant washes. It is also important to scrub under your fingernails to remove any remnants of the plant resin. In addition, thoroughly clean clothing or any objects that may have come into contact with these plants.

Picture of Poison Ivy Plant and Poison Ivy Skin Rash
Picture of Poison Ivy Plant and Poison Ivy Skin Rash

If the characteristics rash develops, initial treatment consists of symptomatic care, as in most cases, the rash will improve on its own after one to three weeks. Self-care at home is usually all that is necessary. In the meantime, the following treatments may be useful to alleviate symptoms:

  • Apply cool compresses to the skin.
  • Use topical treatments to relieve itching, including calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, or aluminum acetate (Domeboro solution).
  • Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can also help relieve itching.
  • For a more severe rash, a health-care professional may prescribe a high-potency steroid cream or an oral corticosteroid (such as prednisone).
  • Over-the-counter pain medication may be necessary for pain control.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if the rash becomes infected. Avoid scratching the rash to prevent the development of a bacterial infection.
  • Go to the nearest emergency department or call an ambulance if you experience an anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) characterized by difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, facial swelling, or if you are exposed and have had a previous severe reaction to these plants. Also seek medical care if the rash involves the genitals or the face.
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