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Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

Many people get a rash from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; this is a type of allergic contact dermatitis. This rash is caused by a colorless and odorless oil found in the plants called urushiol, and is found on all the parts of the plans. This itchy, blistering rash often does not start until 12 to 72 hours after you come into contact with the oil, but may take longer if this is your first exposure to the oil. The rash is not contagious and does not spread from person to person. It might seem to spread, but this is just a delayed reaction to the oil. The rash usually goes away in a few weeks. If you have a serious reaction, you need to see a doctor right away. Swelling is a sign of a serious reaction — especially swelling that makes an eye swell shut or your face to swell. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, go to an emergency room immediately.

How to get this rash:
Direct contact: By touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you can get a rash. Every part of these plants — the leaves, stems, roots, and flowers — contains the oil.
Indirect contact: The oil can stick to almost anything. If you touch a pet's fur, gardening tool, or sports equipment that has the oil on it, you can get a rash. Dogs and other animals do not get this rash.
Airborne contact: Burning these poisonous plants releases the particles into the air. These airborne particles can land on the skin.
◦ You cannot give the rash to someone else. Even if the person touches the rash or the fluids in the blisters, the person cannot get the rash. The person has to touch the oil to get the rash.

Signs and symptoms:
◦ Itchy skin.
◦ Redness or red streaks.
◦ Swelling.
◦ An outbreak of small or large blisters, often forming streaks or lines.
◦ Crusting skin (after blisters burst).

◦ A dermatologist can usually look at the rash and tell you whether your rash is due to poison ivy, oak, or sumac.
◦ If you have a serious reaction, you will likely need prescription medicine.
◦ Your dermatologist may prescribe a steroid ointment that you can apply to the skin.
◦ To treat a severe case, an oral medicine like prednisone may be necessary.
◦ A rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks, but can last up to 6 weeks.