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Poison Ivy Dermatitis

Poison ivy dermatitis is a rash caused by the oils of the plant.  These oils cause a rash in sensitized individuals either by direct contact or indirectly from clothing or a pet.  The rash is characterized by itching, redness, and vesicles.  Often the face is red and swollen.  The rash is not contagious.  The fluid in the blisters does not spread to the rash.  The rash can appear anywhere from 4 hours to 10 days after exposure to the plant oils, with the average being 24-72 hours after exposure.  Typically the rash lasts for one to three weeks. If the rash is very severe or includes the face, you should consult your doctor. 


  • Remove and wash contaminated clothing immediately.
  • Wash affected skin with soap and water.
  • Topical agents such as calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can be used to control the itch. Do not use topical products that contain benadryl (diphenhydramine). Cool wet compresses with Burow solution can soothe the skin. Placing cold compresses of whole milk on the face is also very soothing.
  • Oral antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl) can be used to control the itch.

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