Corticosteroids for Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac
High-dose prescription corticosteroid medicines can reduce the symptoms of a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash (allergic contact dermatitis) and sometimes reduce the severity and shorten the length of a rash. These medicines are usually used only for more severe cases of the rash, such as when it covers about 10% of the body's skin or when the face, hands, and genitals are affected. Prescription corticosteroids are available as pills, creams, gels, ointments, or shots.
Prolonged use of oral and injected corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, such as thinning of the bones (osteopenia), slowed growth in children, and increased risk of an ulcer or infection. Talk with your doctor about your risks when using these medicines.
High-dose topical corticosteroids should not be confused with over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, gels, or ointments, which may soothe itching in mild cases of poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash. These products are not recommended for severe rashes. They are not strong enough and may not be used long enough to work. They may appear to work for a time, but the rash often suddenly flares up again, sometimes worse than before.
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