Gregory T. Penny, M.D.
Poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poison oak can be found just about anywhere, including your back yard, along hiking and biking trails, at the lake or river, surrounding your camp site and in the woods.
Nearly 90% of all Americans are allergic to poison ivy and poison oak. If your child comes in contact with the oily sap of one of these plants, it’s practically a sure bet that he or she will get an extremely itchy rash that will appear wherever the sap has touched. A rash will also appear if your child comes in contact with something that has touched the sap, such as your pet’s fur, gardening tools or clothing.
The best way for your child to avoid the misery of poison ivy or poison oak is to learn what these poisonous plants look like. Both plants consist of leaves that come in threes and can be found on vines, as ground cover or as a low shrub. Teach your children to recognize these plants and to stay clear of them at all times. Whenever hiking in areas with heavy growth, be sure your child wears protective clothing including lightweight long pants, socks and long sleeves.
If your child does come in contact with a poisonous plant, it is important to act right away.
Your dog can spread the oil from poison ivy or poison oak too. Do not allow your dog to run through high brush or the woods. If you suspect he or she has brushed against a poisonous plant, hose him down right away. Better yet, give your dog a bath regularly to eliminate the possibility that you or your child will get an itchy rash.
A rash will appear one to two days after being exposed to the plant. The rash will last about two weeks. There is no treatment that can cure the rash; however, there are several ways to help relieve the itch:
If itching becomes severe, even after treating the rash; the skin looks infected; the rash lasts longer than two weeks or if you have any questions or concerns, call a doctor during office hours. However, if the rash is painful with extreme swelling go the emergency room right away.