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5 Tips for Treating Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

By Tom Marino | July 21, 2020
Last Updated: February 2, 2021

Cozying up to the nearest air conditioner has been trending during the first heat wave of the season. It is soon to break, sending many back to a seasonal and distancing level of outdoor activity.

For those who enjoy hiking, gardening, and landscaping projects, Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac are all too familiar.

Angela Patterson, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer for MinuteClinic at CVS, explains that when these plants become damaged, they release an oil, called usushoil, that causes an allergic reaction that can be painful.

Here are five steps Patterson recommends to treat the rash caused by one of these plants.

  • Come inside and remove your clothes immediately. Urushiol can penetrate fabric.
  • Rinse exposed areas of your skin as soon as possible with specialized poison plant washes, rubbing alcohol or a degreasing soap such as dishwashing liquid. Use plenty of water to rinse, but do not scrub, which may further irritate the skin.
  • Monitor for rash symptoms such as redness with blisters and bumps, itching and swelling. These can develop within 4 hours to 4 days, and last for up to 2-3 weeks.
  • If you develop a rash, home treatment options include cold, wet compresses, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths.
  • See a primary care provider or schedule an appointment either in-person at a clinic if any of these symptoms develop:
    • If the rash is spreading and over the counter options aren’t helping
    • Continued swelling; blisters oozing pus (a possible sign of infection)
    • Development of a fever

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