Summertime Rashes: Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnips

During the warm summer months, you'll like spend time outside hiking or camping.  While enjoying these activities you may also come across some plants that can cause rashes, especially May through September.

Common Irritants & Symptoms

  • Poison Oak & Poison Ivy can be found along hiking trails and near camping areas. Both present with similar symptoms. They can causes blisters to appear with redness and swelling of the skin. This helps differentiate from other rashes as redness and itching can be present with just about anything. Symptoms from these plants generally appear in 12-24 hours of exposure.

  • Wild Parsnips are often found in sunny areas along highways and prairies. Encounters with wild parsnips can result in a sunburn type rash, discolored skin and even blisters. Symptoms occur after contaminated skin is exposed to sunlight. Rashes from parsnips will likely appear within 12-24 hours.


Poison oak, poison ivy and wild parsnip rashes are all treated in similar ways.

  • Wash clothes and skin immediately: The oils from poison oak and poison ivy can stay on clothing and your pets for up to a year. Be sure to thoroughly wash your clothes, shoes and pets if you've come in contact with an irritant. Try an oatmeal bath for young children as a gentler alternative to soap.

  • Cool compress: Use a wash cloth soaked in cold water to sooth the irritated skin.

  • Apply anti-itch medicine: A cream such as Corticosteroid or Calamine lotion will help reduce itching.

When to seek medical attention

Despite efforts with in-home treatments, it may be necessary to seek out medical attention if:

  • Severe blistering, swelling, or itching occurs.

  • Sensitive areas such as the eyes are effected.

  • You're experiencing a fever.

  • The rash is long lasting or covers a large portion of your skin; or

  • The blisters become infected.