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Health Information For Parents
Poison ivy is a plant that can cause an itchy rash when touched. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain urushiol (yoo-ROO-shee-ol), a sticky, colorless, odorless oil. Urushiol is not poisonous. It’s considered an allergen because it causes an allergic reaction in most people who touch it.
The allergic reaction to poison ivy includes a rash with blisters, itching, and sometimes swelling. The rash can look like straight lines if the plant brushed against the skin that way.
After a few days, the oozing blisters become crusty and start to flake off. The rash from poison ivy can start within hours of contact or as much as 5 days later. It may take 2 to 3 weeks to heal.
If your child comes into contact with poison ivy/oak/sumac:
For nighttime help: If your doctor recommends it, give your child an over-the-counter oral antihistamine (Benadryl or a store brand). This might not stop itching, but it can make your child drowsy and better able to ignore nighttime itching.
Call your doctor if your child has any kind of rash, especially with a fever. Home treatment can manage most poison ivy/oak/sumac rashes. But get medical care if the skin looks infected (with increasing redness, warmth, pain, swelling or pus) or the rash:
For more severe cases, doctors sometimes prescribe pills or creams with steroids (not the same type of steroids that bodybuilders use) to decrease itching and redness. If the skin looks infected, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
The poison ivy rash itself isn’t contagious. Fluid from a blister can’t spread the rash. But it is possible to get a rash from poison ivy without touching a plant. Urushiol can transfer from one person to another from their skin or clothing. Kids also can pick it up from anything that’s been in contact with the oil, including pets. Urushiol can even travel through the air if someone burns the plants to clear brush.
Poison ivy can grow anywhere — from forests to backyards. And it’s hard to identify: The leaves of poison plants blend right in with other plants and brush. Plus, there are several types of poison ivy, and each one can look different depending on the time of year.
The leaves of poison ivy plants release urushiol when they’re bumped, torn, or brushed against. When the oil is released, the leaves may look shiny or have black spots. Then, it easily can get on skin.
Here are some tips to help kids avoid getting a rash from poison ivy:
Want to avoid summer hazards so you can focus on the fun? This center offers tips for teens.
Keep the fun in summer by keeping your child safe in the sun, the water, and the great outdoors.
Poison ivy can grow anywhere, from the woods to your backyard. This article for teens has tips on how to avoid the plant and what to do if you get a rash.
Most bug bites and stings are just annoying. But some can cause infections and allergic reactions. It’s important to know what to watch for, and when to get medical attention.
Mild rashes from poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants can be treated at home. But severe and widespread rashes require medical treatment.
Poison ivy can give you a nasty rash. Find out more about it – and the other plants that can make you itch – in this article for kids.
Learn about rashes in a flash. Check out our article just for kids!
Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that causes blisters or sores on the face, neck, hands, and diaper area. Learn how this common problem is treated and what can help prevent it.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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