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Poison Ivy - Overview

Poison ivy is a plant that can cause mild to severe skin and allergic reactions after an exposure. People who have poison ivy symptoms can use Push Health to connect with a medical provider who can prescribe poison ivy treatment, including poison ivy cream and other poison ivy medications, when appropriate to do so.

What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is a type of plant that is common across the United States characterized by three smooth leaves that grow from a single stem. The poison ivy plant can be found as a shrub or vine with occasional flowers. The sap of the poison ivy plant contains a clear liquid called urushiol (similar to poison oak and poison sumac) which, on contact with skin, generally causes a skin reaction known as dermatitis.

Poison Ivy - Rash & Symptoms

What does a poison ivy rash look like? The rash caused by poison ivy is typically red, patchy and itchy with bumps or blisters and most people will have a reaction after a poison ivy exposure. Occasionally, the rash and lesions will produce a liquid discharge. Other symptoms that can occur after a poison ivy exposure include difficulty breathing if the sap is somehow inhaled and scars around the site of the rash due to scratching. Poison ivy can also cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract if ingested. Even with appropriate treatment, poison ivy symptoms can take weeks to resolve. Poison ivy is not contagious but any residual oil on one's skin can cause a reaction in anyone else who is exposed.

Poison Ivy - Treatment

Poison ivy treatment typically starts with interventions that can be done at home. The approach to poison ivy treatment involves removing any residual chemical to the extent possible and then relieving the itching and other symptoms associated with the poison ivy rash. Some cases of poison ivy rashes will resolve with the application of remedies such as aloe vera and oatmeal baths as well as calming lotions and creams.

Poison Ivy - Medications

In some circumstances, prescription poison ivy treatments may complement home options. Medications sometimes prescribed for poison ivy symptoms include the following:

In addition to getting poison ivy prescription medications, the first step to help cure poison ivy is washing with soap and water and possibly using over-the-counter poison ivy treatments like baking soda, calamine lotion, diphenhydramine and rubbing alcohol. Even with diligent treatment, poison ivy symptoms can last for 21 days or more, depending on the person.

Poison Ivy Medications - Side Effects

Medications used for poison ivy treatment can cause side effects. Many of these poison ivy medications are meant to reduce inflammation but, with prolonged use, can lead to suppression of the immune system. Other side effects from poison ivy treatment include nausea, fatigue, weight gain, and changes in the skin when poison ivy treatments are applied topically. Because of these side effects, it is important to discuss concerns and the appropriate treatment duration with a qualified medical provider before using prescription medications that help get rid of poison ivy symptoms.

More Poison Ivy Resources

Last updated February 14, 2023. Given the evolving nature of medicine and science, this information might not be accurate and should not be construed as medical advice or diagnosis / treatment recommendations. Please consult a licensed medical provider if you have additional questions. Please call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency.