How to Treat Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac and When to Go to a Doctor

poison ivy

Did you know that around 85 percent of people are allergic to poison ivy, oak, or sumac? Also, fifty million people in the United States have an allergic reaction to one of the three each year. 

The rash you get from these plants is termed allergic reaction dermatitis. If you want to know how to treat any of these and when it’s time to go to a doctor, keep reading and find out what you need to know. 

What’s the Cause of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rashes?

These rashes are caused by something called urushiol, pronounced (yoo-Roo-shee-ol). Urushiol is in the sap of the plants and it spreads very easily.

It’s colorless, odorless, and very sticky. It causes redness, itching, swelling, and blistering if untreated. 

You’ll typically need a couple of weeks to heal from the rash as long as you don’t let it get infected.

What’s the Best Treatment?

The best poison ivy treatment is prevention. If you aren’t able to prevent it, however, and find yourself swelling, itching, and more, then you should treat it right away.

The good thing is you don’t need to go to the doctor immediately, but you may need to eventually if it gets worse or you’re unable to treat it on your own.

Over the Counter Treatments

Over the counter options can help treat poison oak, ivy, or sumac rashes if you know what to get. If your rash is oozing, then you should apply aluminum acetate, aluminum sulfate, or calcium acetate.

You can find any of these at your local drugstore or pharmacy. The options come in either a lotion or a cream and will stop the oozing fairly fast. 

If your rash is very itchy, then you should apply colloidal oatmeal, baking soda, or calamine lotion. You can also try an over the counter steroid cream, but they might not be strong enough.

If it’s not strong enough, you’ll need to see a doctor and get a prescription steroid cream which is much stronger and should do the trick.

Before going to bed, you can take an antihistamine as well. It won’t stop the itching, but it will help you relax and sleep while you’re dealing with a poison sumac rash.

You should also take a cool bath with an oatmeal-based bath product. Make sure to soak for at least half an hour to soothe your skin. 

What Not to Do

It’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what treatments to use. Don’t scratch your blisters! Your hands most likely have bacteria on them and that can lead to an infection. 

You shouldn’t put antibiotic creams with bacitracin or neomycin on your rash either.

Another thing to avoid is putting antihistamine lotions or creams on it. Lastly, don’t put anesthetic creams with benzocaine on your rash either.

When to Go to a Doctor

If you notice puss on your rash or yellow scabs, it’s time to see your doctor. Also, it’s time to pay them a visit if your temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If itching keeps getting worse and you can’t sleep, call your doctor to get some help.

If it’s been over three weeks and the rash isn’t getting any better, this is a sign that something is wrong. If the rash spreads to your mouth, eyes, or genitals, you need to make an appointment ASAP to prevent it from getting worse.

Treating Your Rash

Now you’ve got some great tips for treating a rash caused by poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Remember that prevention is best, but if you do get a rash, use these easy treatment methods as soon as possible. 

Are you dealing with a bad rash that you just can’t shake? If so, we want to hear from you. Click here to contact us for more help.