Leaflets three: Ivy, oak and sumac / Poisonous plant symptoms and treatment


Leaflets three: Ivy, oak and sumac

Posted by Mark Hosko, MD in Medical Education 24 Jun 2013

Whether you’re new to the Portland area or a life-long resident, the prospect of hiking in Oregon is one that must be embraced at least once. The experience of walking through the beautiful forests in the nearby damp Columbia Gorge, witnessing wildlife in its natural habitat and breathing the clear, crisp air away from the city is something you will never forget. Unfortunately, sometimes nature gives hikers something else they may never forget, courtesy of the poisonous plant triad of ivy, oak and sumac.

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac contain urushiol, an oil that triggers an allergic reaction in nearly 85% of the population. Merely brushing against the leaves of any of these plants or touching the roots or stems can result in an itchy, burning rash, swelling, and weepy blisters that can last for up to two weeks.

In general, reactions to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are mild enough that they can be cared for at home. Cool compresses, baking soda and water washes, calamine lotion, and an over-the-counter antihistamine are usually sufficient to wait out the healing process. In some cases, though, more serious symptoms occur, such as severe blistering and swelling, fever, infected blisters, or a rash that lasts longer than two weeks. In these cases, it is wise to seek medical help.

The staff at Portland Urgent Care treats many cases of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac every year. From basic dressing and care to prescription steroids and medications for severe reactions, we are available even after hours to help ease the discomfort and help the healing.

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