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Allergy: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac (cont.)

Medical Treatment

Like most allergic reactions, treatment is dictated by the severity of the reaction. Reactions that cover a large proportion of the body, make someone uncomfortable enough to disrupt normal activities, or do not get better within a few days may require treatment with prescription medications.

Medications for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash

  • Topical corticosteroid creams (prescription strength): These reduce the immune response and relieve inflammatory symptoms.
  • Oral corticosteroid medication (such as prednisone): These have effects similar to those of the creams but are needed for a more severe or widespread reaction. A course of steroids can run from three days to as long as four weeks.
  • Oral antihistamines -- for itching: The main advantage of the prescription antihistamines is that they do not make people sleepy, allowing the individual to carry on his or her normal activities, although some types of second-generation (nonprescription) antihistamines are available over the counter.
  • Antibiotics: These are needed only if the skin becomes infected with bacteria after the initial rash.


Someone who is treated by a medical professional should follow his or her recommendations exactly. Use all medications as directed.

Return to a doctor if the symptoms do not begin to improve in two weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/23/2014

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac:

Poison Ivy Oak And Sumac - Symptoms

What symptoms did you experience with your poison ivy or poison oak?

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac - Treatment

What treatment was effective for your poison ivy?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Plant Poisoning, Toxiccodendron »

Toxicodendron dermatitis is an allergic contact dermatitis (allergic phytodermatitis) that occurs from exposure to members of the plant genus Toxicodendron.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary