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Allergies Health Center

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Recognize and Treat Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and More

Give Poison Plants Space

The best approach for any allergic reaction is to avoid the source that triggers it. These steps can help you steer clear of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac:

  • Avoid areas where you know poisonous plants grow.
  • Cover up with closed shoes, socks, long pants, long sleeves, and gloves. Wash any clothes that come in contact with poisonous plants as soon as possible.
  • If you get exposed, wash your skin with soap and warm water. Try to wash a poisonous plant’s oil off your skin immediately. Some experts say that even washing well within the first hour after exposure may help limit the rash.
  • Scrub under your nails. You can spread poison ivy to other parts of your body by having the oil on your fingers.
  • If you suspect your pet has rolled around in a poisonous plant, give him a bath with pet shampoo and water -- before giving him a cuddle. Wear rubber gloves while giving your pet a bath.
  • Make it a habit to wash sports equipment, gardening tools, and other outdoor items with soap and water. Oil from poison ivy and other poisonous plants can get on golf clubs, balls, bats, and any other objects, and can remain potent for as long as 5 years.

How to Treat a Poison Ivy Rash

If you get a rash from poison ivy, use a cold compress, calamine lotion, non-prescription hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine to relieve itching.

Call your doctor if the rash is near your eyes or covers a large part of your body.

Get emergency medical help or call 911 if you have a severe reaction.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 26, 2015
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