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How To Avoid Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac this Summer

Most of us have been anxiously awaiting the change in season from winter to spring. The warmer weather allows for opening windows and spending more time outdoors. Enjoying nature by engaging in outdoor activities is a welcomed way to spend a day.

Spending time outdoors exposes us to parts of nature that can cause some grief and discomfort. Poison ivy, oak and sumac all have chemical irritants called urushiol oil. Most people are allergic to the oil and when they come in contact with it can develop a blistery, itchy rash. The rash is not contagious nor is it harmful, just uncomfortable.

Prevention, by familiarizing yourself with what the plant looks like, is the best remedy. However, if you find that you have been exposed to the plant, here are recommendations for treating the rash.

How to Treat Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

  1. Cleanse every area of skin that had contact with the plant. Use a wash cloth with soap and water. Another option is to squeeze fresh lemon juice on a washcloth and scrub the skin thoroughly, then rinse with water. Make sure to scrub under your nail as well. And don’t forget to wash your clothes in hot water.
  2. Cool compresses: soak a soft towel or a cotton tee shirt in cool water and apply to rash for 10-15 minutes 3-4 times a day. You can add equal parts of apple cider vinegar or baking soda to the water for extra healing properties.
  3. Soak in a tub with water and baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin and help reduce the inflammation.
  4. Apply topically: aloe vera gel, caledula cream, Witch Hazel or bentonite clay to the rash to reduce symptoms. Lavender and Patchouli essential oils can be effective as well.

It can take up to 2 weeks for symptoms to resolve. If the rash does not seem to be improving and looks red and angry, it is best to have it seen by a healthcare provider.


Cindy Wechsler is an Integrative Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She received her Masters of Science in Nursing degree from Yale University and has been treating children for over 30 years. She specializes in the natural treatment of common childhood conditions. Her compassion and understanding of the body’s innate ability to heal itself fuels her passion to bridge the gap between traditional and integrative medicine.