Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

Also known as: poison ivy rash, poison oak rash.

What are poison ivy and poison oak?

Poison ivy is a ground or climbing vine with fuzzy-bottomed green leaves. Poison oak is a ground, climbing vine or shrub and usually has shiny green leaves. Both are common plants that can cause an allergic skin rash.

What causes poison ivy and poison oak?

Most children will have an allergic reaction when their skin comes in contact with the oil called urushiol oil found in poison ivy and poison oak. The oil easily contaminates clothes, toys and pets.

What are the symptoms of poison ivy and poison oak?

Symptoms present within a few hours or days (1-3) of coming into contact with either plant which include a very itchy red swollen skin rash that can cover a large area and which turns into bumps and then blisters. These may break and ooze liquid.

After a few days blisters harden and form crusts. In rare cases, if the oil is released by burning, poison ivy and poison oak may cause breathing problems and other life-threatening symptoms.

What are poison ivy and poison oak care options?

  • Learning to recognize and avoid poison ivy and poison oak is the best strategy.
  • If contact occurs, bath and wash the child with soap and water as quickly as possible.
  • If the rash is mild; prevent scratching (to prevent secondary bacterial infection), and treat with cool water compresses for 20 minutes and oral and over-the-counter anti-allergy medications (lotions and topical).
  • For a severe rash, contact your pediatrician or Emergency Department.
  • The rash may last for 2 weeks.

Reviewed by: Ana Margarita Duarte, MD

This page was last updated on: August 19, 2021 02:49 PM

Children's Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital focuses on the latest medications and technology available for the specialized treatment of all skin diseases and disorders affecting children of all ages.

Learn More