1-937-436-1117 What to do about poison ivy - Dickerson Dermatology What to do about poison ivy - Dickerson Dermatology

What to do about poison ivy

Poison Ivy Dermatitis

The “poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac” plant grows in nearly every state in the continental U.S. It usually grows as a vine that is found growing up trees, walls, fences, along paths and side walks. It can resemble shrubbery or a small tree or plant.

The allergen known as “catechol” causes rashes when it comes into contact with skin in the form of “urushiol” oil. This reaction can occur within a few hours or up to five days later and can last up to 4 weeks. However, the first exposure can take up to 7-12 days to evolve and can be more severe than consequent rashes. This oil is most active in our summer months.

Redness of the skin, linear blistering and itching rashes occur as a result of contact with the plant. The rash does not spread as a result of touching, scratching or drainage from the lesions. The extent of the rash depends on duration of direct contact with the plant and concentration of the oleoresin on the skin. The sites of the longest contact and highest concentration with the plant oil will break out first wile areas of short contact and low concentration will break out later.


  • Thorough washing with soap and water as soon as possible after exposure to plant
  • Topical anti-itch lotions such as Sarna
  • Antihistamines – over the counter Claritin 10mg in AM and Zyrtec 10 mg at bedtime; you may use Benadryl in between for severe itching but it causes drowsiness so be cautious with driving or working
  • Cool compresses


  • Protective gardening gloves and clothing are good barriers but do not block completely
  • Avoid contact with the plant – “Leaves of three, let them be”
  • Pulling plants or using herbicides
  • Protective over-the-counter products – Zanfel Urushiol Wash; Ivy Block

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