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Poison ivy - oak - sumac rash

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are plants that commonly cause an allergic skin reaction. The result is most often an itchy, red rash with bumps or blisters.

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Poison oak rash on the arm
Poison ivy on the knee
Poison ivy on the leg
Rash

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Causes

The rash is caused by skin contact with the oils (resin) of certain plants. The oils most often enter the skin rapidly. 

POISON IVY 

Poison ivy typically grows in the form of a vine, often along riverbanks. It can be found throughout much of the United States.

POISON OAK

This plant grows in the form of a shrub and has 3 leaves similar to poison ivy. Poison oak is mostly found on the West Coast.

POISON SUMAC

This plant grows as a woody shrub. Each stem contains 7 to 13 leaves arranged in pairs. Poison sumac grows abundantly along the Mississippi River.

AFTER CONTACT WITH THESE PLANTS

Smoke from burning these plants can cause the same reaction.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

The reaction can vary from mild to severe. In rare cases, the person with the rash needs to be treated in the hospital. The worst symptoms are often seen during days 4 to 7 after coming in contact with the plant. The rash may last for 1 to 3 weeks.

First Aid

First aid includes:

Do Not

In case of an allergy:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get emergency medical treatment right away if:

Call your provider if:

Prevention

These steps can help you avoid contact:

Other steps include:

Related Information

Rashes

References

Freeman EE, Paul S, Shofner JD, Kimball AB. Plant-induced dermatitis. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 64.

Habif TP. Contact dermatitis and patch testing. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 4.

Marco CA. Dermatologic presentations. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 110.

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Review Date: 8/26/2017  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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