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Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Barrier Lotions and Creams

Topic Overview

If you know you will be working around poison ivy, oak, or sumac, you may think about using a barrier cream or lotion. This will help prevent the plant oil (urushiol) from contacting your skin and causing a rash (allergic contact dermatitis).

  • Less than 1 hour before contact with the plant, apply the product in a thick, complete layer.
  • Wash the product off thoroughly within 4 hours (preferably as soon as possible) after contact with the plants. The product only delays the penetration of the urushiol.
  • For continued protection, reapply the product every 4 hours.

Products containing bentoquatam (Ivy Block) have been shown to be highly effective in preventing the rash and reducing its severity.1 Ivy Block should not be used on children younger than age 6 or by anyone who already has a rash from the poison ivy, oak, or sumac plants. Another product that may help protect against a rash is Hollister Moisture Barrier. You can get these products without a prescription.

Barrier creams and lotions do not completely protect against getting a poison ivy rash.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Gladman AC (2006). Toxicodendron dermatitis: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 17(2): 120–128.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised October 28, 2011
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