Symptoms and How to Treat It


  • A rash of poison sumac is usually accompanied by redness, swelling, blisters, and an intense itching.
  • After you are in contact with the poison sumac, you need to clean the area with soap and water.
  • Next, you should try anti-itch creams like calamine or hydrocortisone cream or take a bath of oatmeal.
  • Visit the Insider Health Reference Library for more tips.

Poison sumac it is a shrub or small tree that grows in wet, wooded areas of the eastern United States. Poison sumac it grows all year round and any part of the plant, including the leaves, stems, and berries, can cause an allergic reaction.

The touch of the plant triggers an eruption that is usually not dangerous, but can be very uncomfortable and it can last for weeks. If you have a poison sumac rash, there are several remedies you can try at home that can reduce your symptoms and help you heal faster.

Symptoms of poison sumac rash

The poison sumac works in the same way as the poison ivy and poison oak – all three plants contain an oil called urushiol which causes an allergic reaction in most people.

You can get a rash of poison sumac by directly touching the plant or by touching anything contaminated with oil, such as clothing.

After contact with the poison sumac, a rash usually develops on the skin with symptoms as well as:

  • Red
  • Swelling
  • Intense itching
  • Bladders

“If it’s the first time you’ve been exposed to this chemical, it could take 2 weeks for the rash to appear,” he says. Troy Madsen, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Utah.

But if you’ve had a previous reaction to the sumac strain, your immune system will be more familiar with the plant and a rash may appear just a day after being exposed, Madsen says.

How to treat poison sumac

Poisonous sumac rash usually fades on its own over time, but symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. There are several home remedies you can use to control itching and pain and your doctor may offer treatments for more severe cases.

1. Wash with soap and water

If you think you have come in contact with the sumac veil, the first step you need to do is wash the area with soap and water. This can help limit the severity of the rash by removing any oil that is still on your skin, says Madsen.

“However, once you’ve been exposed, washing with soap and water doesn’t completely prevent a reaction,” Madsen says.

2. Try calamine lotion

If your poison sumac symptoms are mild, you can try rubbing gently calamine lotion without prescription on your skin.

Calamine Lotion creates a cooling sensation as it evaporates from your skin, which can soothe the itching. It can also help dry out any fluid you lose from blisters on your rash.

3. Use hydrocortisone cream

Hydrocortisone cream is an anti-inflammatory steroid cream that can help reduce the symptoms of poison sumac such as redness, swelling and itching in your skin.

You can find hydrocortisone cream over the counter, but “if that doesn’t work, a prescribed steroid cream may be more effective in treating these symptoms,” Madsen says.

More severe cases of poison sumac rash may require a higher concentration of the steroid to control your symptoms.

4. Take a bath of oats

“Hot baths can be great for relieving symptoms for all types of pruritus, and especially oatmeal baths have been recommended for rashes and pruritus,” says Madsen.


Oatmeal contains compounds that bind to your skin it creates a protective barrier against any irritants. It is best to use colloidal oatmeal, which is a powder made from ground oats.

To make a bath of oatmeal, follow these steps:

  1. Fill your tub with lukewarm water.
  2. Sprinkle a cup of colloidal oatmeal powder in the bath water.
  3. Soak in the bath for 15 minutes.
  4. Get out of the bathroom and quickly pat the skin.
  5. Use a sweet moisturizer like Cetaphil.

5. Use a fresh compress

A fresh compress can help soothe inflamed skin and reduce itching from a sumac rash.

To make a fresh compress, soak a clean cloth in cold water and then squeeze it so that it does not drip. Then put the compress on your skin on all the affected areas. You should repeat the compress every time you feel fresh.

You can also use ice packed in a towel, but putting the ice directly on your skin can make irritation worse.

It works best to apply a fresh compress on your rash for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day, says Madsen.

6. Take an antihistamine

Typically without taking antihistamines help reduce commonality allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching and coughing. But they can work for poison sumac in a pinch.

“Antihistamine medications don’t seem to work as well for this type of rash as they might for other types of pruritus, but I always recommend that patients try these for some relief of symptoms,” says Madsen.

If antihistamines are not helpful, you can try other remedies or consult your doctor for another treatment option.

When to see a doctor

If the symptoms of poison sumac worsen or are not eliminated later seven to ten days, you should contact your doctor.

“It’s worth trying some over-the-counter treatments, but don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you’re not able to properly control your symptoms at home,” says Madsen.

For example, if your rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, or genitals you should see a doctor immediately.

You should also contact your doctor if you have any signs of infection, including:

  • Puss comes out of your rash
  • Yellow foreshortenings
  • Red streaks on your skin
  • A fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit

Take away the Insider

Poison sumac can cause an itchy and uncomfortable rash but there are several ways to relieve symptoms. Using home treatments such as calamine lotion and fresh compresses is often helpful for rash of poison sumac, but in more severe cases, you may need to contact your doctor for treatment.

If your symptoms are severe or do not improve with treatment, or if you have signs of infection, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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