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.
The rash is caused by skin contact with the oils (resin) of certain plants. The oils most often enter the skin rapidly.
Poison ivy typically grows in the form of a vine, often along riverbanks. It can be found throughout much of the United States.
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.
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.
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 includes:
In case of an allergy:
Get emergency medical treatment right away if:
Call your provider if:
Other steps include:
Garber B, Cydulka RK. Dermatologic presentations. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 120.
Habif TP. Contact dermatitis and patch testing. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 4.
Shofner JD, Kimball AB. Plant-induced dermatitis. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 63.
Last reviewed on: 8/14/2015
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.