Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac

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What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are all plants that can cause an itchy rash when the oil produced from the plants comes in contact with the skin.

What Causes Poison Ivy?

The resin in the plants contains an oily substance called urushiol. Urushiol is easily transferred from the plants to other objects, including tools and animals. This chemical can remain active for a year or longer. It can be spread if the oils remain on the skin, clothes or shoes. This is why washing your hands, clothes, and shoes as soon as possible is very important. The oils can also be transferred from clothing, pets or smoke from a burning plant.

The rash from exposure to the poison plants cannot be spread from person to person by touching the blisters or from the fluid inside the blisters.

Signs and Symptoms of Poison Ivy

Common signs and symptoms of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac include:

  • Red, itchy streaks or generalized redness where the plant touched the skin
  • Small, fluid-filled blisters and bumps that itch and eventually break, ooze and crust over
  • Swelling in the area of contact (sometimes)

Treatment for Poison Ivy

There in no cure for poison ivy once the rash starts. Avoiding the poison plants is the best treatment. It is very important to learn what the plants look like and not to touch them.

If contact with the plants has already occurred, you may be able to prevent the rash by following these steps:

  • Remove the oils from the skin as soon as possible by cleansing with an ordinary soap alcohol-based wipes.
  • Repeat the cleaning with the soap or wipes three times.
  • Wash all clothes and shoes also because the oils can remain on these items.

Your physician may recommend treatments to relieve the itching, including:

  • Over-the-counter creams
    • Calamine lotion
    • Baking soda or colloidal oatmeal bath (available at your local drugstore)
  • Oral medication for severe itching
  • Steroid cream or injection for swelling and itching

Contact your physician if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Temperature over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C)
  • Blisters and rash on the face, eyes, genitals or all over the body

Contact Us

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.