PARISH NURSE MINISTRY NEWSLETTER
POISON IVY, OAK, and SUMAC
(allergic skin rash)
“ ...people brought to him all those who were sick...that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak...
as many as touched it were healed.”
oison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac causes a skin rash called contact dermatitis. The red, uncomfortable, and itchy rash
often shows up in lines or streaks and is marked by fluid-filled blisters or hives. It is the most common skin problem caused by
contact with plants. The rash is caused by contact with the oil, urushiol, an allergen. Indirect contact with urushiol can also
cause the rash. This may happen when you touch clothing, pet fur, sporting gear, gardening tools, or other objects that have come in
contact with one of these plants.
y Itchy skin where you come in contact with the plant.
y Red streaks or lines where the plant brushed against the skin, or general redness.
y Small bumps or larger raised areas (hives).
y Blisters filled with fluid that sometimes leaks out.
Wash immediately or after suspected contact. Thoroughly rinse with water 15-20 minutes.
The rash usually appears 8 to 48 hours after contact with the urushiol. The rash will continue to develop in new areas over several days,
but only on parts of your skin that had contact with the urushiol or those parts where the urushiol was spread by touching. The rash is
not contagious. You cannot catch or spread a rash once it appears, even if you touch it or the blister fluid, because the urushiol will
already be absorbed or washed off the skin. The rash may seem to be spreading, but either it is developing from earlier contact or you
have touched something that still has urushiol on it.
Most poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes can be treated successfully at home. Initial treatment consists of washing the area with water
immediately after contact with the plants. To relieve symptoms, use wet compresses and take cool bathes. Nonprescription antihista-
mines and calamine lotion (as long as you are not allergic to these) also may help relieve symptoms. Moderate or severe cases of the
rash may require treatment by a health professional, who may prescribe corticosteroid pills, creams, or ointments.
The best way to prevent the rash is to learn to identify and avoid the plants. When contact with the plants is unavoidable, heavy cloth-
ing (long pants, long sleeved shirt, and vinyl gloves — urushiol can penetrate rubber) and barrier creams or lotions may provide some
protection. Clothing or any other object that has touched the plant must be handled carefully and washed thoroughly and immediately.
Contaminated surfaces should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac are found throughout the continental United States. Generally, poison ivy grows east of the
Rocky Mountains, poison oak west of the Rocky Mountains, and poison sumac in the southeastern United States. Learn what these
plants look like and for more information go to “search engine with title poison ivy.”
Information from: online Healthwise Encyclopedia, Author: Colleen Cronin, Medical review: P. Burgess, M.D. Family Medicine, and Michael
O’Connor, M.D. Emergency Medicine.
We wish you a Safe and Blessed Summer,
Holy Family Parish Nurses.