Poison Ivy Medical Treatment in Boston

poison ivy example

What is it?

Skin contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac causes a rash. This rash is caused by an oil found in plants, called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all)

Signs and Symptoms:

  • An outbreak of small or large blisters, often forming streaks or lines
  • Itchy skin
  • Redness or red streaks
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Crusting skin (after blisters burst)


  • Direct contact: touching any part of the poison ivy, oak or sumac plant
  • Indirect contact: urishiol can stick to an object: pet fur, garden tools etc
  • Airborne contact: inhaling or having skin contact with particles released from burning any of the poisonous plants


Dermatologist can diagnose poison ivy, oak or sumac by simply looking at the rash.


  • Severe reactions will likely need prescription medicine like a steroid ointment or a steroid pill
  • Infections will be prescribed an antibiotic
  • At home treatments include
    • Short lukewarm baths
    • Over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream
    • Cool compress on affected area(s)
    • Avoid scratching to prevent infection


  • The rash usually lasts 1-3 weeks
  • The rash is not contagious and it does not spread unless you keep touching the urushiol oil that is on an object (like a pet’s fur). The rash may keep coming out for days, as it’s often a delayed reaction
  • Eyelid swelling may be seen in the case of airborne contact
  • Go to the Emergency Room if you have trouble breathing or swallowing

poison ivy example

Learn more at the American Academy of Dermatology: AAD Poison ivy, oak, and Sumac Overview.

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Important Announcement

Dear Patients,

Our goal here at The Dermatology of Institute of Boston is protect the health of our patients and staff. To continue caring for our patients during these uncertain times, while strictly adhering to the guidelines set by the CDC, we will be only offering virtual consultations. For some patients, an in person visit is best, but if you feel that your concern could be addressed online, this may be a convenient option for you.

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