treating plant rashes

Wherever you live, you or your kids may have a brush with a poisonous plant like poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Find out how to treat the rash when you do.


What to do when an encounter with a poisonous plant leaves your child itchy and scratching

The old saying "leaves of three, let them be" is a good one to teach kids before your next camping trip or woodland walk, but poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are not always easy to recognize. The plants can grow as shrubs or vines depending on the part of the country. To familiarize your family with them, visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site and the American Academy of Dermatology, and here are ways you can prevent and treat these rashes:

Stay the Course

When camping or hiking, stay on marked or well-worn trails. Hiking trails are maintained by forestry personnel and tend not to have growths of poisonous plants.


Water Works

The AAD advises that you "wash all exposed areas with cold running water as soon as you can reach a stream, lake, or garden hose. Within the first 30 minutes, soap and water are helpful."

Treating Your Itchy Rash

The AAD recommends trying the following to relive the itching from a plant rash:
  • Cool showers and applying over-the-counter preparations like calamine lotion or Burow's solution.

  • Soaking in a lukewarm bath with an oatmeal or baking-soda solution may also ease itching and dry oozing blisters

  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams are not strong enough to have much effect on poison ivy rashes, see a dermatologist if the itch from a plant rash is unbearable

  • Scratching won't spread it, but it can damage the skin and lead to infection

Busting a Myth

Fluid from blisters cannot spread poison ivy, oak, or sumac, but the oil and dust from these plants can, so always launder sheets, and clothing after a contact with a poisonous plant.

Beware of Scratching

If an affected area becomes inflamed and swollen, seek immediate medical help. Excessive scratching can lead to infections, so encourage your children not to scratch a a poisonous rash.
Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see's Terms of Use.
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