WellSpan Home

Corticosteroids for Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac

Topic Overview

High-dose prescription corticosteroid medicines can reduce the symptoms of a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash (allergic contact dermatitis) and sometimes reduce the severity and shorten the length of a rash. These medicines are usually used only for more severe cases of the rash, such as when it covers about 10% of the body's skin or when the face, hands, and genitals are affected. Prescription corticosteroids are available as pills, creams, gels, ointments, or shots.

  • Corticosteroid pills (usually prednisone) can dramatically reduce the symptoms caused by a strong reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Oral corticosteroids generally work better than other forms of these medicines for poison ivy, oak, or sumac. And they are usually taken until the symptoms are gone. How much medicine you take and for how long often depends on how soon you seek help after the rash appears.
  • Creams, gels, and ointments applied to the skin (topical products) may help reduce itching and redness. Examples of topical corticosteroids include clobetasol (such as Temovate), betamethasone (such as Diprolene), and fluticasone (such as Cutivate). These types of corticosteroids have no effect on blisters. But they may be useful after blisters have disappeared. They should be used for the recommended amount of time, because the rash can reappear if they are stopped too soon. None of these products should be used on the face or genitals, because they can cause the skin to become thin and fragile.
  • Shots of triamcinolone are sometimes used when you cannot take corticosteroid pills. Improperly injected corticosteroids can discolor the skin and cause scarring.

Prolonged use of oral and injected corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, such as thinning of the bones (osteopenia), slowed growth in children, and increased risk of an ulcer or infection. Talk with your doctor about your risks when using these medicines.

High-dose topical corticosteroids should not be confused with over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, gels, or ointments, which may soothe itching in mild cases of poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash. These products are not recommended for severe rashes. They are not strong enough and may not be used long enough to work. They may appear to work for a time, but the rash often suddenly flares up again, sometimes worse than before.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×