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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Corticosteroids for Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac
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.
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.
August 30, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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