UT University Health Services

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Allergic rashes related to poison ivy, oak, and sumac are caused by contact with oils contained in these plants. The severity of a reaction to these oils varies from person to person, and can become more severe in the same individual with repeated exposures. posion ivy

These rashes aren't contagious in the real sense. You can't give someone poison ivy if they touch your rash. However, unless you thoroughly wash the oils off your skin and items that the oils have touched, you can spread the oils around by rubbing or scratching, wearing contaminated socks or clothes, or otherwise touching contaminated items.

poison ivy

Signs and Symptoms

  • An itchy, red rash, occasionally with blisters
  • In severe cases, cracking and weeping (oozing) of your skin

Self-Care

  • Wash clothes and other items, and bathe pets that could have been contaminated by the oils. Use gloves to avoid re-exposing yourself.
  • Don't rub or scratch your rash.
  • Use lukewarm rather than hot water for baths or showers.
  • To soothe your skin and help dry a weeping rash, use baking soda or an OTC product like Aveeno powder in your bath. You can apply calamine lotion if your skin isn't broken and your reaction is mild.
  • For itching, use a non-prescription topical hydrocortisone cream and/or oral antihistamine, if necessary.

Over the Counter Medications

  • Brand names listed as examples do not imply better quality over other brands. Generic equivalents may also exist.
  • Use only as directed on the package, unless your healthcare provider instructs you to do otherwise.
  • OTCs may interact with other medications or be potentially harmful if you have certain medical conditions. Talk to your pharmacist about options that are right for you.

OTC Medications:
example: Hydrocortisone 1% cream / ointment
example: Zinc oxide ointment
example: Aquaphor®
example: Vitamin A & D ointment
example: Calamine® Lotion

Forty Acres Pharmacy

The Forty Acres Pharmacy, located in the SSB 1.110 and operated by the UT College of Pharmacy, sells a wide variety of OTC allergy medications and treatments. Ask our pharmacists to help you choose appropriate medications or products for your symptoms.

Red Flags

CALL THE UHS NURSE ADVICE LINE (512) 475-6877 (NURS) IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • A rash near your eyes or on your face or genitals
  • Signs of infection, such as increased swelling, tenderness, redness, pain, pus, or a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher
  • A rash on large areas of your body
  • Symptoms that don't improve or that get worse after two or three days of self-care

Resources

Forty Acres Pharmacy
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Fact Sheet
Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants

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