Diagnosis

You generally won't need to see your doctor for a poison ivy rash. If you do visit your doctor, he or she will be able to diagnose your rash by looking at it. No further testing is needed.

Treatment

Poison ivy treatments are usually limited to self-care methods. And the rash typically goes away on its own in two to three weeks.

If the rash is widespread or results in a large number of blisters, your doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone. If a bacterial infection has developed at the rash site, your doctor may give you a prescription for an oral antibiotic.

Lifestyle and home remedies

A poison ivy rash will eventually go away on its own. But the itching can be hard to deal with and make it difficult to sleep. If you scratch your blisters, they may become infected. Here are some steps you can take to help control the itching:

  • Apply an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream for the first few days.
  • Apply calamine lotion.
  • Take oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others), which may also help you sleep better.
  • Soak in a cool-water bath containing an oatmeal-based bath product (Aveeno).
  • Place cool, wet compresses on the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day.

Preparing for your appointment

You probably won't need medical treatment for a poison ivy rash unless it spreads widely, persists for more than a few weeks or becomes infected. If you're concerned, you'll probably first see your primary care doctor. He or she might refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).

What you can do

Before your appointment, you may want to list all the medications, supplements and vitamins you take. Also, list questions you'd like to ask your doctor about your poison ivy rash. Examples include:

  • How long will this rash last?
  • Is it contagious?
  • Is it OK to scratch?
  • Will scratching spread the rash?
  • Will popping the blisters spread the rash?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What can I do to help control the itching?
  • If the rash doesn't go away or gets worse, when do you think I need to make another appointment with you?
  • How can I prevent this in the future?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have you had a similar rash in the past?
  • Have you spent time outdoors recently?
  • What treatment steps have you already tried?
Aug. 11, 2015
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Contact dermatitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  2. Bolognia JL, et al., eds. Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, occupational dermatoses and dermatoses due to plants. In: Dermatology Essentials. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 15, 2015.
  3. Wolff K, et al. Contact dermatitis. In: Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed June 15, 2015.
  4. Prok L, et al. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron) dermatitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 16, 2015.
  5. Poisonous plants. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants. Accessed June 15, 2015.
  6. Outsmarting poison ivy and other poisonous plants. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm049342.htm. Accessed June 15, 2015.
  7. AskMayoExpert. Poison ivy rash (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  8. Patient education: Poison ivy. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 15, 2015.
  9. Poison ivy. Nursing. 2014;6:47.
  10. Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 10, 2015.