Poison Ivy (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Poison ivy, oak, and sumac facts
- What causes the rash? How do I identify poison ivy, oak, and sumac?
- What are the signs and symptoms of the poison ivy rash?
- Is a rash from poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis contagious?
- What are risk factors for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
- How is the dermatitis of poison ivy, oak, and sumac diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
- What are complications for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
- How can contact with poison ivy, oak, and sumac be prevented?
- What should people do if they are exposed to a poisonous plant?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What are complications for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
Serious complications from poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis are rare. The most common complication is the development of bacterial infections at the site of the rash due to breaks in the skin caused by repeated scratching. Bacterial infections of the skin may require antibiotic treatment and in rare cases may spread to other areas of the body.
Again, in rare situations, the eyes, airway, and lungs may be affected if exposed to smoke from burning plants.
What is the prognosis (outlook) for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis?
The prognosis for poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis is generally excellent, with the majority of infections clearing on their own completely within two weeks.
How can contact with poison ivy, oak, and sumac be prevented?
Poison ivy and its relatives are often hidden among other vegetation. Even if you know exactly what they look like, it is very hard to avoid coming in contact with them. Although wearing long pants and long sleeves in warm weather may be uncomfortable, it is important to do so when you might be in contact with plants you can't see, whether you are gardening in the backyard or hiking in the woods. So-called "barrier creams" may help a bit but are not very effective.
When pulling up weeds, those who may be allergic should make sure to tuck sleeves into gloves at all times, since sleeves tend to ride up the forearms and leave wrists and forearms exposed. Vinyl gloves do not absorb urushiol well and are, therefore, more effective for prevention than fabric or leather gloves.
If you think you may have been exposed to poison ivy, wash the skin with cool water as soon as possible. After half an hour, however, this is no longer likely to prevent the reaction. As discussed above, washing pets and clothing may also be of limited help.
Attempts to desensitize people by immunotherapy (giving them poison ivy by mouth or by injection) were tried in the past but proved to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Allergies & Asthma
Improve treatments & prevent attacks.