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Health Information Encyclopedia - Poison

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Poison oak rash on the arm
Poison oak rash on the arm


Poison ivy on the knee
Poison ivy on the knee


Poison ivy on the leg
Poison ivy on the leg


Poison ivy - oak - sumac

Definition:

Poison ivy , oak, or sumac poisoning is an allergic reaction that results from touching the sap of these plants. The sap may be on the plant, in the ashes of burned plants, on an animal, or on other objects that came in contact with the plant, such as clothing, garden tools, and sports equipment.

Small amounts of sap can remain under a person's fingernails for several days unless it is deliberately removed with very good cleaning.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.



Alternative Names:

Poison oak; Poison sumac; Sumac - poisonous; Oak - poisonous; Ivy - poisonous



Poisonous Ingredient:

One poisonous ingredient is the chemical urushiol.



Where Found:
  • Bruised roots, stems, flowers, leaves, fruit
  • Pollen of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.



Symptoms:
  • Blisters
  • Burning skin
  • Itching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling

Symptoms can affect the eyes and mouth in addition to the skin.



Home Treatment:

Wash the area immediately with soap and water. Quickly washing the area can prevent a reaction, but it doesn't usually help if done more than 1 hour after touching the plant's sap. Flush the eyes out with water.

Carefully wash any contaminated objects or clothing alone in hot soapy water. Do not let the items touch any other clothing or materials.

An over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl or a steroid cream may help relieve itching.



Before Calling Emergency:

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the plant, if known
  • The amount swallowed (if swallowed)


Poison Control, or a local emergency number:

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number



What to expect at the emergency room:

Unless the reaction is severe, you will probably not need to visit the emergency room. If you are concerned, call your doctor or poison control.

At the doctor's office, you may receive:

  • Antihistamine or steroids by mouth or applied to the skin
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation)


Expectations (prognosis):

Life-threatening reactions may occur if the poisonous ingredients are swallowed or are breathed in (which can happen when the plants are burned).

Typical skin rashes usually go away without any long-term problems. A skin infection may develop if the affected areas are not kept clean.



References:

Smolinske SC, Daubert GP, Spoerke DG. Poisonous plants. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 24.

Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007.




Review Date: 12/15/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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