KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Summer means more time outdoors and more chances of coming in contact with poison ivy. The oil in poison ivy plants causes an allergic reaction in 75% of people who come in contact with it. Most of us just get a mild rash, but some children get a severe rash requiring medical treatment.
Dr. Katy Stordahl, an emergency room physician at Children’s Hospital, says everyone knows you can get the oil from a poison ivy plant by touching it, but you can also pass the oil from person to person, on the family pet, or anything else that has come in contact with the oil.
The oil can also travel through the air if someone burns plants to burn brush. Stordahl says to never burn poison ivy to get rid of it. The oil releases a toxin that, if inhaled, can cause a severe allergic reaction in the lungs and throat that can be fatal.
Teach children to recognize poison ivy
In order to prevent rash, teach children how to identify poison ivy. It’s shiny, and has pointed leaves growing in groups of three, just like you heard as a kid – “Leaves of three, let it be.” It can grow in a vine or as a shrub and is often found on trees, around fences, but can grow pretty much anywhere.
Remove clothing and wash it, and carefully scrub under fingernails right away with soap and water. Take a shower to wash off any remaining oil.
If your child has a rash, an oatmeal bath may help with itching, but don’t take a bath as your first defense to wash off the oil in poison ivy plants because it can get in the bath water and spread to other areas of your body.
Common treatments for poison ivy
For mild rash, apply calamine lotion three or four times a day to cut down on itching. Apply topical 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to decrease the inflammation.
You should see a doctor if the rash is severe, on the face or on extensive parts of the body. You should also go to the doctor if there’s any sign of infection, if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatment, or if there is a fever.
American Academy of Dermatology: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
Medical News Today: Poison ivy rash: Causes, treatment, and prevention
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants