This is the season for poison ivy. We've been seeing a lot of cases lately, whether it was an exposure at camp or just spending more time out of doors. This is a rash caused by contact with poison ivy, a plant that unfortunately flourishes on four continents.
The sap of the plant contains an oil called urushiol. This is the irritant that causes an allergic reaction and rash. This oil is in the leaves, stems and roots of the plant. The itchy, blistering rash often does not start until 12 to 72 hours after initial contact with the oil.
There are many misconseptions about how the rash spreads. The rash is not contagious nor is the fluid in a blister. The fluid doesn't contain urushiol and so it can't spread the rash. The rash can't spread on the body by scratching either. Poison ivy can't be transferred from person to person. The only way to get poison ivy from another person is to touch urushiol that's still on that person or his or her clothing.
If your child is exposed, you should wash the skin right away with warm soapy water. Also wash the clothing to remove any oil. Washing the oil off may reduce your chances of getting a poison ivy rash, but if your child should develop a rash, it can be very itchy and usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks.
You can treat mild cases of the rash at home with soothing lotions and cool baths, but a prescription medication may be needed for a rash that's severe or widespread.
Swelling is a sign of a serious reaction, especially swelling that makes an eye swell shut or the face to swell.
Make sure your older children know what the plant looks like, so they can avoid it. Recognizing poison ivy and avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent a poison ivy rash from developing.
Poison Ivy Facts:
• Poison ivy has three leaves that are usually shiny and medium-sized. The leaves are usually bright green but can also have shades of red or yellow.
• It can be found along the edges of trails, streets, campsites or in your garden.
• It can appear as either a small vine or a small shrub.
Most cases of poison ivy can be treated at home. However, should your child have difficulty breathing or trouble swallowing go to the emergency room at once.
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