Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
If you are exposed to any of these plants or their oils, wash thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible. An alternative is rubbing alcohol, which can dissolve and remove the oils from your skin. If you can remove the oil within 10 minutes, you are unlikely to develop the rash.
Symptoms from a mild rash can sometimes be relieved by the following:
Do not attempt to treat severe reactions or to "wait it out" at home. Go immediately to the nearest emergency department or call an ambulance. Here are some things to do while waiting for the ambulance:
Try to stay calm.
Prevent further exposure to the "poisonous" plant.
Take an antihistamine (one to two tablets or capsules of diphenhydramine [Benadryl]) if you can swallow without difficulty.
If you are wheezing or having difficulty breathing, use an inhaled bronchodilator such as albuterol (Proventil) or epinephrine (Primatene Mist) if one is available. These inhaled medications dilate the airway.
If you are feeling lightheaded or faint, lie down and raise your legs higher than your head to help blood flow to your brain.
If you have been given an epinephrine kit for a previous allergic reaction, inject yourself as you have been instructed. The kit provides a premeasured dose of epinephrine, a prescription drug that rapidly reverses the most serious symptoms (see Follow-up).
Bystanders should administer CPR to a person who becomes unconscious and stops breathing or does not have a pulse.
If at all possible, you or your companion should be prepared to tell medical personnel what medications you take and your allergy history.