What is poison ivy?
Poison ivy is a common allergic reaction that can cause a skin rash. The oil from the plant causes the rash, which usually appears within three days of contact and can present as red streaks, small bumps or blisters that can break open and ooze. A poison ivy rash is often severely itchy and uncomfortable.
Identifying the plant
Poison ivy can quickly spread, so knowing what it looks like and avoiding it is the first step in preventing skin irritation. The plant is found throughout most of the United States, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and parts of the West. It mainly grows as a vine and can wrap itself around trees, low plants and poles.
You might have heard the saying “leaves of three, let them be” since poison ivy plants have three glossy leaves. Teaching children to identify this plant and how it usually grows may keep them from developing uncomfortable, itchy rashes later on.
How to avoid poison ivy
If your children regularly play in the woods or areas where poison ivy grows, outfit them in long sleeves and pants for added protection. You can also use preventive barrier creams to reduce the chance of contact with the plant on exposed skin. If you or your child touches poison ivy, follow these steps.
- Wash all clothes, including shoes, in soap and water.
- Wash the part of the skin that made contact with soap and water for upwards of 10 to 15 minutes. If done within 15 minutes of exposure, it is possible to avoid a rash altogether.
- Don’t let them touch the family pet. The oil from the plant can rub off on the pet’s fur and spread. Anyone who subsequently pets the animal is at risk of a reaction and developing a rash.
- Family pets can also bring poison ivy into your home on their fur, so be sure to wipe them down after a trip outdoors. Tecnu Detox Wipes are safe to use on their fur as well as on children’s skin.
What if a rash develops?
Often, kids won’t even know they were in contact with poison ivy until a rash develops a few days later. There are steps you can take to help reduce symptoms and provide relief.
- Apply calamine lotion a few times a day directly onto the affected areas. This will help reduce any pain or itching. The medicine can help dry out any oozing associated with poison ivy and make the rash feel more tolerable.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream to help with inflammation.
- Take Benadryl to help reduce the itchy feeling.
Other home remedies to get relief
- Apply cool, wet compresses to help with itching.
- Soak your child in warm water with colloidal oatmeal.
When to see a doctor
If the poison ivy rash and blisters are on the face, near the genitals or cover the whole body, it is time to see a doctor. Other reasons to call include a rash that looks worse, is swelling and feels warm to the touch. This might mean your child has an infection. If symptoms don’t clear up after three to four weeks of using over-the-counter creams, it is time for a doctor’s visit.
After a quick examination, your doctor may prescribe some type of steroid to help with the itching and any associated swelling.
Most of the time, a doctor’s visit isn’t necessary, and poison ivy can be treated with over-the-counter creams and other rash relief methods. However, it is key to keep an eye on the rash and get seen if your child develops a fever or extreme swelling.
If your child is struggling with poison ivy or other types of skin issues, our team of experts at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics can help. If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s health or dealing with sensitive skin issues, contact us for an appointment.