Scott A. Norton, MD, MPH, MSc, former Chief of Dermatology at Children’s National Hospital shared in the “Rise and Shine” blog that with summer just around the corner, it is important to know how to treat poison ivy and poison oak rashes in kids. The best prevention is to teach your children how to recognize poisonous plants and stay away from them. The American Academy of Dermatology and American Academy of Pediatrics offer information on how to identify these plants and treat a rash if one occurs.
About five to 10 percent of people are not allergic to poison ivy and will never get a rash from poison ivy. Many other people mistakenly believe that they are not allergic to poison ivy because they have not yet had a noticeable reaction, such as a rash. The explanation is that people rarely develop a rash or any type of skin reaction the first time they encounter poison ivy, however, most people will break out in a rash after subsequent exposure. The urushiol oil contained in the leaves and stems of poison ivy and poison oak causes the rash. It may be carried by pets or clothing that were exposed. If a rash develops, it usually appears in one to four days after exposure and should heal in two to three weeks. The rash will often form in streaks on exposed skin, a result of the individual brushing through the plants.
The mildest form of rash caused by these plants often consists of small, red, itchy bumps that can resemble hives. It is more common to develop clusters of small blisters, usually with clear fluid, that can sometimes join together to form larger blisters. If your child gets poison ivy on his or her eyelids, the eyelids will become red, swollen, and itchy – but the eyeballs themselves should not be affected.
If your child is exposed to poison ivy, start preventive measures by:
- Gently wash the affected area for several minutes in warm, soapy water. Rinse the soap off thoroughly and dry gently. There is no need to scrub the skin harshly.
- Wash all clothes, shoes, and pets that may have come in contact with the plant; the oil can spread from clothes to other surfaces easily and quickly.