Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac  

This Care Guide Covers:

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

If not, see these topics
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Poison Ivy Plant (Example 1)
Poison Ivy Plant (Example 1)

Poison Ivy Rash on Forearm
Poison Ivy Rash on Forearm

Poison Ivy Rash on Wrist
Poison Ivy Rash on Wrist

Poison Sumac Plant
Poison Sumac Plant

Poison Ivy Plant (Example 2)
Poison Ivy Plant (Example 2)

Poison Oak Plant
Poison Oak Plant

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor 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 Your Doctor 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 Your Doctor 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
Causes & Health Information


  • 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Steroid Cream:
    • To help with the itch, put 1% hydrocortisone cream on the rash.
    • No prescription is needed.
    • Use 3 times per day.
  3. Cold:
    • 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.
  4. Allergy Medicine:
    • If itching persists, give Benadryl by mouth.
    • Use every 6 hours as needed.
    • No prescription is needed.
    • See Dose Table.
  5. Try Not to Scratch:
    • Cut the fingernails short.
    • Help your child not to scratch.
    • Reason: Prevent a skin infection from bacteria.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Poison ivy lasts for more than 3 weeks
    • It looks infected
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

This free app has a symptom checker,
dosage tables for common medications,
home health advice and more.

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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.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.