Poison Ivy is one of the worst things anyone should not encounter, hopefully never. Unfortunately, it does happen often enough, particularly in places where the plant grows abundantly.
Poison ivy and many in the plant family it belongs to, the Family Anacardiaceae, produce an oily organic compound called urushiol. It is quite a potent toxin that can cause mild to severe allergic reactions — even death — to people. This oily resin is in their leaves, stems, roots, including vines.
Poison Ivy in Children
Allergic reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can be really ugly and turn fatal. Contact dermatitis is the condition when one develops skin rashes. The more extreme reaction is Systemic poison ivy, which causes swelling of the body. If the face gets bloated and the eyes are forced shut by this, that’s already severe. It may even cause internal swelling that can block the airways and cause difficulty in breathing.
This allergic experience to poison ivy hurts. It hurts more if it’s our children that get those allergic reactions. Face it, kids get into more seemingly-fun mischiefs than adults. They like to explore, creep into places and discover things. They’re the perfect victims waiting to happen. Most of them are allergic to poison ivy.
How, then, to protect the children from poison ivy and its family?
What to Do
It’s always better to be in-the-know. That way, the right and proper measures can be taken.
Tips on Avoiding Poison Ivy
Prevention is better than cure, it is said. Therefore, it is very important that kids are able to stay away from poison ivy as much and as far as possible.
Take note of these:
- Know what poison ivy looks like. Search for photos from books or online. Let the family, especially the kids, familiarize themselves with the photos.
- Avoid the leaves, stem and roots of the plant.
- Basically, stay away from plants with three leaves and hairy vines. Remember, “Leaves of three, leave them be.”
- The poison ivy leaves…
- can be either shiny, smooth and hairless, or rough, hairy and velvety
- re reddish in the spring, green in the summer and yellow, orange or red in the fall
- may have yellow-green flowers, or green or off-white berries
- Wear protective clothing. If they somehow come in contact with the plant, wash them off immediately with warm water and soap. Wash skin that may have been exposed as well. Caution is the word. Learn how to wash clothes exposed to poison ivy.
- Wear pants, long sleeves, and shoes and socks when in areas where the plants grow.
- Keep pets away from areas where the plants grow. Animals are immune to the toxin. However, they can come in contact with poison ivy and carry the toxin on their furs.
- If there is suspicion of any possibility of pets coming in contact with poison ivy, make sure no one touches or hugs the pets until they have been bathed with water and mild soap.
- Wash hands thoroughly with cleansers in case of contact. Wash under the fingernails because it’s the fingers that spread the rashes, not the fluid from blisters.
- DO NOT BURN any parts of poison ivy as urushiol can be carried by air and reach miles. Inhalation could be fatal.
What to Watch Out For
This time, know what allergic reactions “look” like. Watch out for the following:
- Difficulty breathing
Rashes usually develop in 12 to 72 hours and last two to three weeks.
If these happen, it’s time to take measures.
Poison Ivy Treatment
So there was contact with poison ivy. Before any allergic reactions occur or if there are already there, these are what have to be done:
- Of course, as first aid, give the child antihistamine.
- Cleanse the skin with soap (like dishwashing soap) and cool water within five to 10 minutes.
- Cleansing with rubbing alcohol also works.
- Rinse often.
- Use special products meant especially for this situation. Certain creams/lotions can help to prevent poison ivy rash. There are special products like Tecnu and Zanfel for removing urushiol.
- If the rashes are there, use soothing creams/lotions and rub on affected areas.
- Use calamine lotion or corticosteroid cream, pills, liquids, or injections.
- Resist all the urge to scratch so as not to cause and spread the toxin to other parts of the body.
- Again, wash all pets, clothing, and objects that may come in contact with the plant. Tecnu Original can also be used to remove urushiol from your pets, clothes, tools, and gears.
- Take cool or lukewarm baths (cool is better, really) because heat worsens the effects of rashes. In fact, take an oatmeal or a baking soda bath — they’re great to use for this.
- No bathing? Then place cool cloths on the child’s affected skin.
If things take a turn from mild to worse (swelling around the face, swelling genitals, hard to breathe, hard to swallow, more severe rashes), the child may take steroid medication by mouth. But by all means, take the kid to a doctor! Go to one in case of increasing redness, swelling, pain or a milky discharge from the irritated areas. Definitely go if s/he is not responding to any of the treatments for a mild rash.
There will be questions to be asked about the child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam would be required. These would all be for the better. Do not forget to ask back for the health provider’s contact details as they would be easier to reach in case complications happen later.
These are all practical tips to counter the effects of poison ivy. Still, the best thing to do is to prevent any troubles before they even start. Stay away from poison ivy!