Antihistamine pills are used to relieve the symptoms of the rash
poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Prescription medications,
such as corticosteroids, may be used for severe rashes. Medicines are also used
to make the rash less severe.
Antihistamine pills can help
relieve itching and dry blisters. Examples include
Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride), which is an over-the-counter
medicine, and Vistaril (hydroxyzine hydrochloride), which you get by
Corticosteroid pills may be used to treat a moderate
or severe rash. These prescription medications help improve or clear up the
rash more quickly. Prescription corticosteroid creams, ointments, shots, or
gels may also be used, but pills or shots are usually more effective.
Barrier creams and lotions help prevent the plant oil
(urushiol) from coming in contact with the skin or reduce the severity of a
reaction. These creams vary in their potency and are not always
You may be able to use a product that dissolves
urushiol, such as Tecnu Poison Oak-N-Ivy Cleanser, an organic solvent. These
products may reduce the severity of your reaction.
The most common complication of poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash is
infection, usually caused by scratching. When this
occurs, your health professional will probably prescribe a type of topical
antibiotic cream if the infection is in a small area.
Otherwise, you may need systemic antibiotics, given as prescription pills or
What To Think About
The following medications should not be used for poison ivy, oak,
or sumac rash, because they can cause allergy problems of their own:
- Antihistamines applied to the skin (such as Benadryl cream,
spray, or gel; Dermamycin).
- Anesthetics applied to the skin
containing benzocaine (such as Americaine, Anacaine, Lanacane,
- Antibiotics containing neomycin sulfate (such as
Neosporin, Neo-Rx, Mycifradin, Poly-Pred).