Poison Ivy, Poison Oak & Poison Sumac Prevention

The best way to prevent poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac is to learn how to identify these plants and avoid contact with them. Wear protective clothing (e.g., long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves) when outside, especially in wooded areas, and wash exposed areas of skin with soap and water within 30 minutes of any possible contact.

The toxic substance from these plants (urushiol) can remain on clothes, pets, tools, and sporting equipment (e.g., ball, Frisbee) and cause a reaction, so thoroughly wash anything that may have come in contact with a poisonous plant. Rubbing alcohol can be used to inactivate urushiol on the skin and help prevent an allergic reaction.

Bentoquatam (Ivy Block) is a lotion that can be applied to the skin at least 15 minutes before possible exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. This lotion acts as a barrier to prevent urushiol from being absorbed by the skin. For maximum prevention, it should be applied every 4 hours.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 23 Aug 2007

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015