Contact Dermatitis from Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac
May 17, 2021 by Keely Knopp
As the weather warms up and more people are gardening, hiking, and generally enjoying the outdoors. potential exposure to urushiol oil—through contact with poison ivy, oak and sumac—increases. Exposure can occur through direct contact with parts of the plant (eg, roots, sap, leaves, or stems) or via contact with objects that have been contaminated by the plant—including your pets, clothing and gardening tools. Here are tips from Mercy Urgent Care on how to avoid exposure and what to do if you come into contact with these plants and have a reaction.
- Avoid exposure by wearing protective clothing such as heavy-duty vinyl gloves, long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Wash with a detergent soap (or with special preparations designed for poison ivy) as soon as possible after exposure to reduce the risk of dermatitis, but washing even two hours after exposure can be beneficial. Don’t forget to scrub under your fingernails. Neither the rash nor the fluid from the rash is contagious.
- Fels Naptha laundry soap and scrubbing with a washcloth is very effective for removing urushiol oil from skin and tends to be less expensive than specialty poison ivy soaps.
- Oatmeal baths and cool compresses can help with symptoms. Avoid hot showers.
- You may take 25 to 50 mg of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) every 4-8 hrs (max. 300 mg daily) to help with the reaction. Use caution as this may cause sedation (not recommended for those over 65 years).
- Use OTC hydrocortisone cream and/or Calamine lotion on any lesions to help with the itching and rash.
Seek medical attention if you have a rash around your eyes, mouth, genitals, if you have swelling of your face, or itching that gets worse or doesn’t improve. Seek immediate attention if you are having difficulty breathing, swallowing or develop a fever. Schedule an appointment at Mercy Urgent Care to evaluate if prescription meds are necessary. Find your nearest Mercy Urgent Care location.