Children's Hospital Colorado

Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • A very itchy rash with blisters
  • Caused by contact with the poison ivy plant

Symptoms of Poison Ivy

  • Rash is shaped like streaks or lines.
  • Red streaks with weeping blisters.
  • Rash found on exposed body surfaces (such as the hands). Also, can be on areas touched by the hands. Areas that can be affected in this way are the face or genitals.
  • Very itchy.
  • Onset 1 or 2 days after child was in a forest or field.


  • Caused by oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants.
  • The oil is found in the leaves, stems, berries and roots of the plant.
  • Oil may be carried on pet's fur.
  • The oil from the plant causes the skin to itch, turn red and blister.

Go to ER Now

  • Trouble breathing or severe coughing after being near to burning weeds

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness or pus)
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks infected (spreading redness or pus) and no fever
  • Swelling is severe (such as the eyes are swollen shut)
  • Severe poison ivy reaction in the past
  • Rash covers more than one fourth of the body
  • Face, eyes, lips or genitals have a rash
  • Severe itching (such as can't sleep)
  • Big blisters or sores
  • Taking oral steroids for more than 24 hours and rash getting worse
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Rash lasts more than 3 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild poison ivy or sumac rash

Care Advice for Mild Poison Ivy

  1. What You Should Know About Poison Ivy:
    • Poison ivy is caused by skin contact with the oil from the plant.
    • The oil can also come from the fur of outdoor pets.
    • Most poison ivy rashes can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Steroid Cream for Itching:
    • To help with the itch, put 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid) on the rash.
    • No prescription is needed.
    • Use 3 times per day.
  3. Cold Soaks for Itching:
    • Soak the involved area in cool water for 20 minutes.
    • You can also rub the rash with an ice cube.
    • Do as often as needed to help the itching and oozing.
  4. Allergy Medicine for Itching:
    • If itching persists, give an allergy medicine (such as Benadryl) by mouth.
    • Use every 6 hours as needed.
    • No prescription is needed.
  5. Try Not to Scratch:
    • Cut the fingernails short.
    • Help your child not to scratch.
    • Reason: Prevent a skin infection from bacteria.
  6. More Poison Ivy - Prevention:
    • New blisters may occur several days after the first ones. This means your child probably has ongoing contact with poison ivy oil.
    • To prevent it from coming back, bathe all dogs or other pets.
    • Wash all clothes and shoes that your child wore on the day of contact.
  7. Return to School:
    • Poison ivy or oak cannot be spread to others.
    • The fluid from the blisters or rash can't cause poison ivy.
    • No need to miss any school or child care.
  8. What to Expect:
    • Most often, the rash lasts 2 weeks.
    • Treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms.
    • Treatment does not change how long they last.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Poison ivy lasts for more than 3 weeks
    • It looks infected
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Care Advice for Mild Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy Rash on Forearm

The oil from the plant leaves irritates the skin.

The redness and blistering from the rash often appears in streaks or lines, because the leaf brushes across the body in a line as a person walks past.

Poison Ivy Rash on Wrist

The oil from the plant leaves irritates the skin.

The redness and blistering from the rash is often arranged in streaks or lines, because the leaf brushes across the body in a line as a person walks past.

Poison Ivy Plant (Example 1)

The leaves appear in groups of three.

Poison ivy grows as a small plant, as a bush, or as a vine.

Poison Oak Plant

Poison oak can grow on a tree or a vine. The leaves look wavy and grow in groups of threes.

Poison Sumac Plant

Poison sumac can have groups of 6-12 leaves. Each stem has leaves growing across (parallel) from each other. Young plants are red or red-brown. As a poison sumac plant grows older, the leaves will become brown or grey.


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

The search for nearby emergency and urgent care facilities is based upon Google search parameters. You will get results based on how facilities manage their website information.

By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither publishers nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any expressed or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.

Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Related departments