CareNow® - April 05, 2022

What plants cause a rash and when to seek treatment

When you’re outside enjoying the warm summer weather, it’s important to know which plants to avoid. Touching certain plants, such as poison ivy, can result in an itchy rash that can spread throughout your body. Here’s what you need to know about summer plant safety and what to do if you develop a rash.

Does poison ivy go away without treatment?

If you’ve developed a rash due to poison ivy exposure, you may need a steroid or antibiotic to help with your poison ivy treatment. While home remedies like a cold compress, calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams can help alleviate itching temporarily, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if you know you’ve been exposed to poison ivy.

You may also find that warm baths (done frequently for a short period of time) can help relieve itching as well. It’s important to avoid scratching your skin and that you leave blisters alone to prevent an infection.

Does urgent care treat poison ivy?

Urgent care facilities are a great option when seeking treatment for poison ivy. Because wait time is fast and you can check-in online and wait from anywhere, you can get the treatment you need and get back to your day in no time.

Learn More About Urgent Care Services

How to get rid of poison sumac rash

Although often confused with poison ivy, poison sumac is actually a different plant that contains the same poison as ivy: urushiol. This plant appears as a woody shrub or small tree and typically lives in wet areas.

Any time you touch poison sumac, you’re susceptible to an itchy, burning allergic reaction to plants. Because this plant is considered to be more allergenic than poison ivy or poison oak, there’s a good chance you will need to seek medical care if you’re exposed.

Much like poison ivy, a steroid or antibiotic can help your rash go away. If your rash spreads to your face or genitals, covers more than 30 percent of your body, or results in a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you should see a provider immediately.

Plants that can give you a rash

If you’re planning a hike any time soon or just anticipate spending plenty of time outdoors this spring, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the types of plants that can cause a rash. Most of these plants will require a plant rash treatment.

These are the plants you need to avoid and how you can best identify them:

Poison ivy

Typically, you can find poison ivy in clusters of three. These clusters grow on vines that can eventually move up into trees or trails. The vine, the roots, the flowers, the berries and the leaves all contain the poison urushiol.

Poison oak

Although many people find it confusing, poison oak isn’t actually related to oak trees despite the fact that its leaves can resemble those of an oak tree. Poison oak can be found throughout the country and normally grows in forests as well as dry spots. You can identify poison oak by the deep green leaves that grow in clusters (much like poison ivy) on its stem.

Poison sumac

Containing the same poison as poison ivy and oak, poison sumac presents itself as a shrub or small tree. It can easily be identified by its red stems and compound leaves (each leaf has up to 13 leaflets). Poison sumac’s flowers are a greenish-yellow color.

Wood nettle

You’ll usually find wood nettle growing in large, dense patches, which are often used as cover for wildlife. Most wood nettle patches stand up 2 to 4 feet tall with a light- to medium-green stem. During the summer months, wood nettle blooms and produces lacy strands of white flowers.

Stinging nettle

A close relative of wood nettle, stinging nettle typically grows near streams, in ditches and along hiking trails. This plant has a singular stem with branches that can grow up to 8 feet tall.

Baby’s breath

In most cases, baby’s breath isn’t dangerous (you’ve likely received this as part of a bouquet before); however, when it’s dried, baby’s breath can be an irritant to your eyes, nose, skin and sinuses.


This beautiful plant can be tempting to touch with its shiny green leaves and blue flowers that tend to bloom in late spring or early summer. However, doing so can result in irritation of the skin, redness, or blistering, so always wear gloves if you’re dealing with this plant in your garden.

Giant hogweed:

This plant is actually considered a weed, which seems fitting considering the annoying rash it can leave you with. Contact with the giant hogweed can leave you with irritation to your skin and eye, which can result in blistering, scarring and even blindness if the sap makes its way into your eye.

Can I spread poison ivy to others?

There’s no way for you to spread poison ivy or any other poison plant rash to another person. However, you can get the rash yourself if you touch something that has the plant oil on it like clothing, garden tools or even pets.

What does the beginning of poison ivy look like?

It’s a common misconception that a poison ivy rash develops as soon as you come in contact with the plant. Actually, it can take up to 72 hours for the rash to develop, depending on what part of your body came in contact with the plant.

When your rash is developing, it will appear as patches or streaks of red, raised blisters. In most cases, the rash won’t spread unless the poison, urushiol, comes in contact with more of your skin. Most poison ivy rashes will peak at a week; however, they can last up to 3 weeks.

Does urgent care treat rashes?

Yes! Urgent care is a great place to go if you’ve developed a rash thanks to their convenient hours and quick, quality service. Although most rashes aren’t serious, they can still impact your quality of life, so seeking medical care is an important step in recovery.

Now the question is when to go to urgent care for poison ivy. If you believe you’ve developed a rash, whether it be a result of contact with a plant or otherwise, consider visiting your local CareNow® location. With more than 175 locations throughout the country, we’re ready to serve you when and where you need it most.

Be sure to utilize the Web Check-In® feature before your visit and wait from anywhere you want. Walk-in patients are always welcome too.

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