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Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac - Allied Physicians Group - Pediatric Medicine
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  • Poison Ivy – Oak – Sumac


    • A very itchy rash with blisters
    • Caused by contact with the poison ivy plant


    • Rash is shaped like streaks or lines.
    • Red streaks with weeping blisters.
    • Rash found on exposed body surfaces (such as the hands). Also, can be on areas touched by the hands. Areas that can be affected in this way are the face or genitals.
    • Very itchy.
    • Onset 1 or 2 days after child was in a forest or field.


    • Caused by oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants.
    • The oil is found in the leaves, stems, berries and roots of the plant.
    • Oil may be carried by pets.

    Return to School

    • Poison ivy or oak cannot be spread to others. No need to miss any school or child care.

    When to Call Us for Poison Ivy – Oak – Sumac

    Call Us Now (night or day) If:

    • Your child looks or acts very sick
    • Trouble breathing after exposure to burning weeds
    • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness or pus)
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • Looks infected (spreading redness or pus) and no fever
    • Swelling is severe (such as the eyes are swollen shut)
    • Severe poison ivy reaction in the past
    • Rash covers more than one fourth of the body
    • Face, eyes, lips or genitals have a rash
    • Severe itching (such as can’t sleep)
    • Big blisters or sores
    • Taking oral steroids for more than 24 hours and rash getting worse

    Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If:

    • You have other questions or concerns
    • Rash lasts more than 3 weeks

    Parent Care at Home If:

    • Mild poison ivy or sumac

    Care Advice for Mild Poison Ivy

    What You Should Know:

    • Poison ivy is caused by skin contact with the oil from the plant.
    • The oil can also come from the fur of outdoor pets.
    • Most poison ivy rashes can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    Steroid Cream:

    • To help with the itch, put 1% hydrocortisone cream on the rash.
    • No prescription is needed.
    • Use 3 times per day.


    • Soak the involved area in cool water for 20 minutes.
    • You can also rub the rash with an ice cube.
    • Do as often as needed to help the itching and oozing.

    Allergy Medicine:

    • If itching persists, give Benadryl by mouth.
    • Use every 6 hours as needed.
    • No prescription is needed.
    • See Dose Table.

    Try Not to Scratch:

    • Cut the fingernails short.
    • Help your child not to scratch.
    • Reason: Prevent a skin infection from bacteria.

    More Poison Ivy:

    • More Poison Ivy:New blisters may occur several days after the first ones. This means your child probably has ongoing contact with poison ivy oil.
    • To prevent it from coming back, bathe all dogs or other pets.
    • Wash all clothes and shoes that your child wore on the day of contact.

    Return to School:

    • Poison ivy or oak cannot be spread to others.
    • The fluid from the blisters or rash can’t cause poison ivy.
    • No need to miss any school or child care.

    What to Expect:

    • Most often, the rash lasts 2 weeks.
    • Treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms.
    • Treatment does not change how long they last.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Poison ivy lasts for more than 3 weeks
    • It looks infected
    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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