How To Treat Poison Oak, Ivy and Sumac

Know your leaves! "Leaves of three let it be"

Poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac are plants that produce oils that can irritate the skin. As a group, these oils are known to cause a condition known clinically as contact dermatitis. This oil is called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all). The rash is not contagious and does not spread. Although it might seem to spread, this is a delayed reaction to oil contact.

Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek emergency medical treatment:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Rash covers the majority of your body.
  • You have many rashes or blisters.
  • Swelling, especially if an eyelid swells shut.
  • Rash develops anywhere on your face or genitals.
  • Much of your skin itches or nothing seems to ease the itch.

How can I treat contact dermatitis at home?

  • Resist the urge to scratch, as your allergic rash may become infected when disturbed.
  • Wash your hands at least every hour; brown bar laundry soap works best.
  • Keep your nails short and clean
  • Take oatmeal baths to relieve the urge to itch. Use warm water, not hot, and pat the skin dry with a clean towel.
  • Do not share towels and clothes.
  • Take Benadryl for itching every 6 hours. This may cause drowsiness so try Zyrtec or Allegra OTC as a less drowsy alternative.
  • Use 1% Hydrocortisone cream 3 times a day for mild rashes. DO NOT apply to any open sores.
  • If blisters burst, gently remove dead skin with clean hands and apply antibiotic ointment 3 times a day (Bacitracin, or something similar over the counter).
  • If symptoms and rash do not get better within 4 to 5 days, seek medical care with your PCP or at GoHealth Urgent Care. Some treatment recommendations may include:
  • Prescription steroid creams. DO NOT apply to open sores.
  • Oral steroids in a tapering (gradually decreasing) fashion over a 2-week period.
  • Topical or oral antibiotics for secondary infections as determined by your medical provider.

We're Here to Help.

At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re open 7 days a week and can provide immediate relief from poison oak, poison ivy, or sumac.