Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

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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