Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Poison oak, poison sumac, poison ivy

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that can cause a skin rash upon contact. The red, itchy rash often shows up in lines or streaks and may cause fluid-filled blisters or large, raised hives.

The rash is caused by an allergic reaction to an oil in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. The rash may occur when your child touches the plant or clothing, pet fur, sporting gear, gardening tools, or other objects that have come in contact with one of these plants.

Your child cannot catch or spread the rash, even if he or she touches it or the blister fluid, because the plant oil will already have been absorbed or washed off the skin. The rash may seem to be spreading, but either it is still developing from earlier contact or your child has touched something that still has the plant oil on it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed a cream, use it as directed. If the doctor prescribed medicine, give it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Use cold, wet cloths to reduce itching.
  • Keep your child cool and out of the sun.
  • Leave the rash open to the air.
  • Wash all clothing or other things that may have come in contact with the plant oil.
  • Avoid most lotions and ointments until the rash heals. Calamine lotion may help relieve symptoms of a plant rash. Use it 3 or 4 times a day.

To prevent poison ivy exposure

If you know your child may be exposed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac when playing outdoors, learn to identify these plants and teach your child to avoid them.

If contact with the plants can't be avoided or is likely:

  • Dress your child in long pants, long sleeves, and closed shoes to help keep the oil from getting on your child's skin.
  • Wash well or throw away anything that came into contact with the plants. You can use an after-contact product, such as Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser, to clean plant oil from your child's skin, clothing, or toys.
  • Be sure to have your child wash his or her hands before and after using the washroom.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the rash.
    • Pus draining from the rash.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child has new blisters or bruises, or the rash spreads and looks like a sunburn.
  • The rash gets worse, or it comes back after nearly disappearing.
  • You think a medicine is making your child's rash worse.
  • The rash does not clear up after 1 to 2 weeks of home treatment.
  • Your child has joint aches or body aches with the rash.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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