Poison Ivy and Toxic Oak: 5 Questions To Ask Your Doctor


Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy and Toxic Oak


Poison ivy and toxic oak are plants that induce an allergic skin backlash in most exposed individuals.


About 85% of the community is hypersensitive to the urushiol oil discovered in poison ivy, oak, and sumac, affirming the American Academy of Dermatology. Annually, up to 50 million Americans form a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash.

The chance of acquiring an allergic sensitivity to these toxic plants drops off with age, and people who have never been exposed to urushiol merely have a 50% chance of developing contact dermatitis when disclosed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac.

In extension, allergic sensitivity to poison plants weakens with age. It is potential for adolescents who are highly susceptible to urushiol to mature into adults who are barely responsive to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, nevertheless of how many times they have been exposed to the plant oil.

How To Identify Poison Ivy

Poison ivy, usually a scaling vine, can still develop as a shrub or bush. It has elliptical petals in shape and grows in groups of three on a stem.

Poison ivy is frequent in the United States, except in the Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaii. Poison oak, which thrives as a shrub, has leaves constructed like oak leaves and grows in groups of three to a stem.

Poison Oak
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Poison oak is typical in the United States, specifically on the West Coast from Mexico to Canada.

Not everybody is hypersensitive to poison ivy and poison oak; however, nine out of ten individuals who contact either of the plants will have hypersensitive feedback to some extent.

All parts of the plants are venomous, and the amount of time it takes for an allergic backlash to generate differs. The duration and harshness of the reaction depend on the duration of exposure, sort of contact, and how sensitive the individual is to the plants.

If an individual is going to have allergic feedback, it will commonly take place within one or two days of exposure. However, some individuals have a backlash within an hour, whereas others do not experience a backlash until five days after the exposure.


The stuff that leads to the allergic answer is the same for both plants. It is an oily wax called urushiol. It merely takes a negligible volume of the resin to produce a reaction.

The resin can be passed on to the skin by immediately touching the plant or indirectly by getting in contact with the thing that has touched the plant, such as devices, pets, or clothing.

Although pets are seldom affected, they can bring the resin on their fur and deliver it to humans. Corresponding to the University of Maryland Medical Center professionals, the “chemical [resin] can persist alive for over a year.”

The manifestations of poison ivy and poison oak are the same. Commonly, the initial indications to show up are itchiness and bulging in the contact areas.

The itchy rash that accompanies includes minor pimple-comparable bumps (occasionally attributed to as papules), as well as abscesses that subsequently burst open, ooze, and crust over.


They establish a diagnosis based on the symptoms and a personal diagnosis. Occasionally, individuals have careers that make it challenging to dodge poison ivy and poison oak, such as working in forested territories or construction locations.


Anybody who falls in contact with either plant should promptly rinse the opened area with soap and water—having a bath shortly after contact is not suggested because that could expand the resin to alternative areas of the body.

All clothing, comprising shoes and shoelaces, should be taken out thoughtfully and rinsed independently or disposed of.

Hydrocortisone ointment and calamine balm can yield comfort for minor incidents until the manifestations dissipate. Over-the-counter Benadryl pills help alleviate itching.

Some individuals find cereal or baking soda baths to be alleviating as well. Oral steroids, such as prednisone, are accessible for more severe instances, exclusively those involving the face, eyes, mouth, or genitals.

If symptoms of infection build-up, such as pus and fever, victims should call their physicians.

Subjects should call in their doctors before they accept any balms that involve benzocaine or zirconium because they can lead to allergic feedback that aggravates the condition. We do not advocate antihistamine balms for the same reason.

The professionals at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System advise that “some individuals have serious hypersensitive feedbacks to these plants and can have swelling in the larynx, breathing troubles, instability, vertigo, and bluish lips.” Emergency medical care should be pursued if any severe reactions develop.


The condition is not severe in most instances and commonly goes away in two weeks. Individuals with significant reactions should request restorative care promptly.


The top way to avert poison ivy and poison allergic oak backlashes is to prevent contact with poison ivy and poison oak plants. Individuals should inform themselves on what the plants look like to bypass them. They should maintain a popular telling in mind: “Leaves of three, let them be.”

People who aim to be in a field where poison ivy and poison oak might be discovered should wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. It should deal with the elimination of the plants with care.

As specified by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System professionals, “Burning can be critical and is not suggested for disposition or as a control action, because they can bring the toxic oil from the plant in the mist.”

Instead, they propose spraying the plants with glyphosate, which is ordinarily known as the brand’s Roundup or Kleenup.

Parental Worries

Most rashes generated by poison ivy and poison oak can be dealt with efficiently at home. Parents should employ an anti-itch ointment, such as a 1% hydrocortisone cream, to infected areas on kids to diminish itching until the rash soothes.

Icy compresses have likewise been found efficient. If the reaction turns into severe, they should seek medical treatment promptly.


  • What should I do if I am exposed to poison ivy?

  • How long does the rash last?

  • What are the best remedies for treating the rash?

  • Should I discard the clothes that were exposed to it?

  • How can I prevent my child from scratching the rash?



Burks, A. Wesley, et al. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2019.

Habif, Thomas P. Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Saunders, 2020.

Kang, Sewong, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 9th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2019.


Brien, James H. “An uncommon manifestation of a common summertime problem.” Infectious Diseases in Children 32, no. 7 (2019): 4