What is a Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Rash?
A poison ivy or poison oak rash is caused by an oil in the plants called urushiol. The oil is present in the leaves, roots and stems of the plant. Exposure to urushiol causes an allergic reaction or rash in many people. Exposure to the plant directly, or secondary exposure by contact with exposed clothing, pets or gardening tools, may cause a reaction.
Common symptoms of a poison ivy or poison oak rash may include:
- A red rash at the site of exposure, within a few hours to a few days of contact
- Itching where the contact occurred
- Potential red streaks, bumps or blisters
The rash is not contagious.
Mild cases of poison ivy or poison oak rash can be treated by washing affected areas, including under fingernails, with soap and water or alcohol immediately after exposure. Itching and blistering may be relieved by applying cold compresses, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone creams. Taking cool baths or non-prescription antihistamine may also alleviate itching.
Moderate or extremes case of this rash may require the care of a physician. You should see a healthcare professional if:
- The rash is widespread or severe
- The rash is on a sensitive area such as the face, mouth, eyes or genitals
- Blisters are present
- Fever over 100F occurs
If you experience a severe allergic reaction with swelling and/or difficulty breathing, you should call 911 or seek the immediate care of an emergency room.
Some of the best ways to prevent poison ivy or poison oak rashes are:
- Learn how to identify poison ivy and poison oak plants and avoid them
- Wear protective clothing including long pants, long sleeves and gloves
- Wash your skin immediately after contact
- Wash contaminated clothing and shoes so future exposures do not occur
If you think you are showing signs of a poison ivy or poison oak rash, consult a physician for prompt diagnosis and treatment. MedSpring locations are open with a doctor on-site from 9am-9pm, 7 days a week. Walk-ins are welcome, or call ahead to make an appointment.