Health News

Oh no! Was that Poison Oak? Could be. It’s What’s Going Around.

With the amazing weather Central Florida has been having this month, it’s no wonder people are spending lots of time outdoors. The downside to that is something Centra Care doctors have been seeing more and more lately – Poison Oak and Poison Ivy. Most people are sensitive to the plants’ oily sap. If it gets on your skin, it causes a blistering skin rash. The rash can range from mild to severe, depending on how much sap gets on your skin and how sensitive you are to it.

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Poison Ivy has three shiny green leaves and a red stem. It typically grows in the form of a vine, often along the water’s edge. Poison Oak grows in the form of a shrub and has three leaves, similar to Poison Ivy.

The oils from these plants usually enter the skin rapidly and may remain for a long time on contaminated clothing, pets, tools, shoes and other surfaces. These contaminated items can cause rashes in the future if they are not properly cleaned.


  • Extreme itching
  • Red, streaky, patchy rash where the plant touched the skin
  • Red bumps, which may form large, weeping blisters

One’s reaction can vary from mild to severe. In rare cases, the person is admitted to a hospital. The worst symptoms are often seen during days 4 to 7. The rash may last for 1 to 3 weeks.


  • Wash the skin thoroughly with soap and warm water. Because the plant oil enters skin quickly, try to wash it off within 30 minutes.
  • Scrub under the fingernails with a brush to prevent the plant oil from spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Wash clothing and shoes with soap and hot water. The plant oils can linger on them.
  • Immediately bathe animals to remove the oils from their fur.
  • Body heat and sweating can aggravate the itching. Stay cool and apply cool compresses to your skin.
  • Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream can be applied to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
  • Bathing in lukewarm water with an oatmeal bath product, available in drugstores, may soothe itchy skin.
  • If creams, lotions, or bathing do not stop the itching, antihistamines may be helpful.
  • In severe cases, especially for a rash around the face or genitals, the health care provider may prescribe steroids, taken by mouth or given by injection.

Do NOT touch skin or clothing that still have the resins.

Call 911 or go to an emergency room if:

  • Someone is suffering a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing, or has had a severe reaction in the past.

Call your doctor or head to Centra Care if:

  • Itching is severe and cannot be controlled.
  • The rash affects your face, lips, eyes, or genitals.
  • The rash shows signs of infection, such as pus, yellow fluid leaking from blisters, odor, or increased tenderness.

The best way to avoid the rash is to learn what the plants look like and stay away from them. As the old saying goes, “leaves of three, leave it be.”