Poison Ivy in Children: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Poison Ivy

What Is Poison Ivy?

  • It is an allergic response to the oils of a certain family of plants that includes Poison Ivy/Poison Oak/Poison Sumac leaves
  • It appears as 3 leaves on a stem (known as “leaves of 3”)
  • An allergic response to these oils creates redness, swelling, itchiness, and sometimes blisters

When Does Poison ivy occur?

  • It can happen in the Spring, Summer & Fall when kids are outdoors playing
  • When kids brush up against Poison/Oak/Sumac the oils on these plants get stuck to their skin 
  • A rash caused by an allergic reaction to this oil can appear hours to a few days after contact with the oils

Where Does Poison Ivy Appear on the body?

  • It will appear on any part of the body that comes into contact with the oils of these plants
  • The oils can get trapped underneath fingernails, on clothing & shoes, and in the fur of pets that play outside with kids
  • When kids scratch their skin, it allows the oil to spread from their fingernails to other parts of their bodies, or even worse, to their siblings

How to treat Poison Ivy?

  • If possible, prevent contact with the plant by having children wear long sleeves & cotton pants when hiking or playing near a thick brush
  • Wash exposed skin as soon as possible for 10 minutes with soap and water to keep the oils from settling into the skin
  • Wash clothes & shoes after being exposed to Poison Ivy as the oils can get trapped there & lead to spread later
  • Bathe pets that may have been exposed as the oils can stick to their fur
  • Cut fingernails short to prevent the oils from gathering under the nails
  • Calm skin with calamine lotion or aloe vera gel
  • Use 1% Hydrocortisone twice a day for a few days to reduce inflammation

Is Poison Ivy Contagious?

  • Though it is technically not contagious, if the oils spread from one person’s skin to another’s, the other person can begin with the same allergic response to the oils
  • Do not to share towels, loofahs, or washcloths with someone who has it

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

  • If there is severe itching or spreading of the rash, see a doctor as your child may need oral steroids to reduce the inflammatory reaction 
  • If you notice blisters, redness, or oozing, there may be a secondary skin infection requiring antibiotics
  • If your child has a fever > 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and you think it’s due to the rash, it is a good idea to send a text to your BabiesMD Pediatrician for a check.

 

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