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:
Contact your provider if:
These steps can help you avoid contact:
Other steps include:
Dinulos JGH. Contact dermatitis and patch testing. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide in Diagnosis and Therapy. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 4.
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.
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.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/19/2021
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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