What’s the Difference Between Poison Ivy & Poison Oak?

Poison ivy and poison oak are both itchy and uncomfortable rashes that can happen after you’ve come into contact with the poisonous plants. Identifying poison ivy or poison oak can help prevent a rash and manage your symptoms if you’ve already come into contact with one of the toxic plants.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, visit AFC Urgent Care Bedford for treatment. We can provide medications to help clear up any rash or recommend medications for pain. Learn more about our patient services today.


Even though poison ivy and poison oak are different plants, they both contain the same urushiol oil. Some people do not react to urushiol, but those who do will likely experience symptoms including:

  • Red and itchy skin
  • A rash where the plant touched the skin
  • Raised bumps or welts


Poison ivy and poison oak are both caused by something called urushiol oil. This oil is on the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak plants and then transferred to your skin. You can come into contact with it directly or through contact with a surface that has urushiol oil on it. The oil can stick to things like pet fur and certain clothing materials and then spread to your skin later.

Poison ivy and poison oak can grow almost anywhere, so you should familiarize yourself with images of the plants if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Wash your hands, change clothes, and clean your pets’ fur immediately after returning from a hike to minimize the risk of urushiol oil exposure. If you know you were in contact with one of the poisonous plants directly, wash the affected area as quickly as possible.


A rash from urushiol will go away on its own over time, but you can use at-home treatments to make your symptoms less severe and speed up the healing process. Anti-itch creams and lotions are your friends! Itching the rash can lead to scarring and infection. If the itch is severe, over-the-counter antihistamines can be used too. If the rash develops open blisters, severe swelling, pus, or you develop a fever, it may be infected.

If you think the rash is infected or isn’t improving with at-home treatments, visit AFC Bedford for same-day treatment and symptom management! You may need a prescription antibiotic or additional topical creams to help dry up the blisters on the rash.

If you’re exposed to poison oak or poison ivy, you can end up with an uncomfortable and itchy rash, so it’s best to focus on avoiding it all together!