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.
Transcript

These unassuming plants can cause problems on your skin. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac all have an oily resin throughout the plant that can create an allergic reaction that lasts for weeks.

"Be aware of your surroundings. If they can, wear higher socks or longer clothing to cover their legs."

Dr. Summer Allen, a Mayo Clinic family physician, says, if you come into contact with a plant like poison ivy, wash the exposed skin right away. Rashes typically appear red, slightly raised or swollen with occasional blisters.

"The hallmark for people is that the intense itching that they will feel from it and almost burning, and then redness on their skin. It can get infected if you itch it, and you open up one of the welts."

The rash typically goes away after a few weeks. Topical treatments include calamine lotion; oatmeal baths; a mixture of baking soda and water; or a cool, wet compress.

And another important tip ...

"Make sure to wash all their clothing."

For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Jason Howland.

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?
July 27, 2018
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.