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 usually enter the skin rapidly.
Poison ivy typically grows in the form of a vine, often along riverbanks. It can be found throughout the United States, except in the Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaii.
This plant grows in the form of a shrub and has three 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 - 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.
Get emergency medical treatment right away if:
Call your provider if:
Other steps include:
Shofner JD, Kimball AB. Plant-induced dermatitis. In: Auerbach PS ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 63.
Cydulka RK, Garber B. Dermatologic presentations. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 120.
Habif TP. Contact dermatitis and patch testing. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 4.
Updated 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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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