How to Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac


Immediately wash the area of the skin that was exposed with abundant amounts of running water.


Wash your clothes--pants, blouse or shirt, and socks--as well as shoes after you've become aware that you've been exposed to any of the plants. In addition, splash rubbing alcohol on the contaminated area (with the exception of the face). The oil in the plants, urushiol oil, which causes the rash can be neutralized this way.


Resist from scratching the ensuing rash as it can lead to neural dermatitis or an itch that continues even after reaction to the oil in any of the plants has stopped.


Reduce itching by running hot (not burning) water over the area of the rash for about five minutes, maybe longer. Running hot water over the area releases histamines in the skin and can help relieve itching for as much as eight hours.


Itching can also be reduced by applying warm or cold packs to the area in combination with calamine lotion.


If itching is unbearable, get a prescription for cortisone cream which is a great deal more effective for the treatment of poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac than the over-the-counter kind.

Tips and Warnings

  • Poison sumac is rarely found except in swampy areas.
  • Poison oak and poison ivy are found in all regions of the United States except in mountainous areas higher than 4,000 feet and in the desert regions of the southwest.
  • Carry rubbing alcohol and a cloth with you if you're going to be hiking or may likely be in an area where you may be exposed. Rubbing alcohol will dilute the oil in poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac.
  • All the plants--poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac--contain urushiol oil, including their stems, roots and berries.
  • If you come into contact with the aforementioned plants, do not rub the leaves of other plants on the exposed area in order to prevent a rash. This will only exacerbate the problem because the juices in other plants will not dilute the oil but, instead, increase the likelihood of aggravating the problem.
  • Usually after the first exposure to any of the mentioned plants, most people or approximately over 80% of individuals will have an adverse reaction even if they have no reaction the first time.