Prednisone For Poison Ivy

Using prednisone for poison ivy reduces the chances of getting a skin infection. Prednisone is widely used for the treatment of allergies and inflammatory disease and can be administered orally or through injections.


Prednisone for poison ivy is a synthetic drug that can be used for the treatment of a rash caused by a plant known as poison ivy, sumac, or oak. It is known to be effective in treatment but also presents some side effects if consumed in large doses or the wrong way. Here is how you can tell if you have a poison ivy rash, how to treat it, prevent it, and identify its side effects.

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid but has similar characteristics to other types of corticosteroids like dexamethasone, triamcinolone, and methylprednisolone. They all contain identical properties to the naturally occurring hydrocortisone that is produced by the adrenal glands. Corticosteroids are known for their many effects on the body, but mainly for their anti-inflammatory effects on diseases that suppress the immune system. The disorders include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Arthritis
  • Colitis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Skin problems

Prednisone is ineffective on its own, but it is converted in its active form by enzymes produced by the liver. As such, prednisone may not be a useful treatment option for people with liver disease because their ability to activate prednisone is impaired. The FDA approved prednisone in 1955.

Uses of Prednisone

Since Prednisone is used in the treatment of many conditions that suppress the immune system, the FDA has approved it for only the following diseases:

  • Arthritis in some of its forms
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Systemic lupus
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reactions
  • Severe psoriasis
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphomas
  • Bronchitis
  • Anemia

It also serves as replacement therapy in patients that have low amounts of naturally produced cortisol as a result of adrenal glands that have malfunctioned. By suppressing the immune system, prednisone also reduces the chances of the body rejecting transplanted organs.

Poison Ivy, Sumac, or Oak:

Poison ivy, sumac and oak belong to the Anacardiaceous family that causes rashes when they come into contact with the skin. About 60 percent of the world’s population is allergic to poison ivy. The resin found in them is responsible for the allergic reaction. The allergic reactions are more intense during summer, as this is the time when more people engage in hiking and other outdoor activities.

Poison ivy is very common in North America, where it grows in open fields, along riverbanks, and in wooded areas. It can also grow in backyards and parks. The color of the leaves vary from yellow to green, and white to green as seasons change. When the plant comes into contact with the skin, it produces a resin known as urushiol, which is present in all parts of the plant.

The substance remains active even after the plant dies, and exposure to even the smallest amount of it will lead to rash development in more than 80% of individuals. The rash can be due to direct contact or indirect contact when the plant oil contaminates clothes or surfaces. There is also the risk of airborne attack if the plants are burned and the particles land on the skin or inhaled.

An individual may not develop a rash as soon as they come into contact with the resin, but repeated exposure will create sensitivity that will give way to the development of a rash. A small group of people will develop an allergic response to the resin.

Inflammation and rash caused by poison ivy can recover without intervention, but the process might take up to three weeks in the time which there is a lot of discomfort and uneasiness. For severe symptoms, or if the rash affects a large area of the skin, the doctor may prescribe prednisone to help reduce the pain, swelling, itching, and inflammation.

Symptoms of Poison Ivy:

The rash appears on the skin as a straight line because that is how the leaves brush against the skin. However, if the outbreak is caused by coming into contact with the affected surface, clothes, or pet fur, it may spread out on the skin. The resin may also be accidentally spread to other parts of the body through contact with the affected area with another. The allergic reaction starts within 48 hours after exposure.

The rash is as severe as the amount of urushiol that the skin comes into contact with, and the more the amount, the faster a rash develops. The symptoms include:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • If the smoke from burning ivy has been inhaled, breathing is difficult.

If you think that your skin has come into contact with poison ivy or any of the plants from its family, wash the area as soon as possible with water and soap. The sooner the area is washed, the higher the chances of getting rid of the oils that cause the rash. All clothes and shoes that might have come into contact with the plant must also be washed immediately.

Prednisone dosage for poison ivy

The dosage given depends on a specific case and cannot be generalized. Age is also a determining factor for the dose to be taken.

  • The prednisone treatment should be taken on an empty stomach for the best results.
  • The dosage starts from 5 mg to 60 mg per day depending on the severity of the allergic reaction and the response of the patient to the drug.
  • It may take longer for results to show because corticosteroids take long to produce immediate effects. They hence must be used for several days before maximum results are achieved.
  • The recommended dose should be taken for the recommended number of times. If the patient misses a dose, they should take it as soon as possible upon remembering. However, two doses should never be taken at the same time as this could lead to overdosing.
  • Long-term use of the drug is not recommendable since it makes the immune system weak. As such, the dosage instructions must strictly be followed to keep away from health problems.
  • After prolonged therapy, the dosage amount of prednisone should be lowered gradually to give the adrenaline glands recovery time. If the drug is abruptly withdrawn from the system, it can lead to adverse effects because the body is not yet able to produce similar amounts of the steroids.

Symptoms of the side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock

Before getting off prednisone, the adrenal glands need time to recover and get back to their original position of producing cortisol.

Side effects of Prednisone treatment:

Prednisone for poison ivy, just like other corticosteroids, has side effects that range from mild to irreversible organ damage, primarily if the treatment is used for long and in high dosage amounts. Common and mild side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Retention of fluid and salt
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Acne
  • A sore throat
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of potassium
  • Hair loss
  • Change in sleep patterns

Adverse side effects include:

  • The growth of facial hair
  • Hiccups
  • Puffiness of the face that gives it a moon face look
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Prolonged wound healing
  • Stomach and duodenum ulcers
  • Obesity
  • Convulsions
  • Changes in sight abilities
  • Retarded growth in children
  • Heart attack
  • Low blood pressure
  • Onset of diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Allergic dermatitis

A patient should also be on the look-out for psychiatric disturbances that can be caused by consuming the drug. Mood swings, depression, euphoria, personality changes, insomnia, and psychotic changes are some of the other side effects possible.

What to discuss with the doctor

Before taking the prednisone treatment, it is essential first to establish that you are not allergic to it or any of the ingredients. Before a doctor prescribes it, you should let them know if you:

  • Are allergic to prednisone
  • Have ever suffered from a systemic fungal infection
  • Are pregnant or lactating
  • Have any mental disorder like depression
  • Are on a dietary supplement
  • Are suffering from cardiac malfunctioning, stomach obstruction, gastritis, or esophagitis.
  • Are taking any other medications

Risk factors:

The risk of exposure to poison ivy, oak, or sumac can be increased by:

  • Camping
  • Construction
  • Farming
  • Gardening
  • Fishing from the shoreline
  • Hunting
  • Forestry

Prevention of Poison ivy rash:

For tips to prevent getting the poison ivy rash:

• Wear protective clothing like gloves, socks, boots, and long sleeves when undertaking outdoor activities.
• Avoid the poison plants
• Get rid of the plants in your yard using herbicides
• Clean all contaminated objects
• Use a barrier cream that prevents the oily resin from coming into contact with your skin.

Precaution while taking Prednisone:

The drug makes you more prone to other diseases since it works by suppressing the immune system. Keep yourself safe while using prednisone by:

  • Avoiding coming into contact with people with other infections like a cold
  • Visiting a doctor’s office if exposed to tuberculosis, chickenpox, or measles while under medication with prednisone.
  • Restrict the use of salt as prednisone elevates blood pressure by causing the body to lose potassium ions.
  • Take vitamin D and calcium supplements as prednisone promotes calcium loss which may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Scratching a poison rash in response to the itchiness can cause an infection of the skin. If the rash develops any complication despite being under medication, be sure to see a doctor for further treatment.