How to Outsmart Poison Ivy

Itching, rashes and blisters…the symptoms of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are a few of the less-exciting pieces of the warmer months.

Kids are likely outside now, exploring and playing and unfortunately many wind up with these symptoms within a few hours or days after exposure.

The culprit: the urushiol oil found in each plan

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,  there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself and your children.

Officials note washing your garden tools and gloves regularly is a great starting point.

They explain if you think you may be working around the poisonous plants you should wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots and impermeable gloves.

Another suggestion according to the FDA is that you wash your pets. According to officials, using pet shampoo and water to scrub down your furry friend while wearing rubber gloves helps to wash away the poisonous oils they may have brushed up against.

And of course, washing your own skin with soap and cool water as soon as possible if you come into contact with one of the plants is a key prevention tip. FDA representatives note, “the sooner you cleanse the skin the greater the chance that you can remove the plant oil or help prevent further spread.”

However; even with prevention top of mind you still may have a little one that ends up scratching.

Poison IvyIt could be poison ivy, which can grow as a vine or small shrub along the ground or climb on low plants, trees, and poles. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets, with smooth or toothed edges. Leaves are reddish in the spring, green in the summer and yellow, orange or red in the fall. They also may have greenish-white flowers or even whitish-yellow berries.

Poison OakOr, it could be poison oak, which grows as a low shrub and in tall clumps or long vines. Fuzzy green leaves are present in clusters of about three. The leaves are lobed or deeply toothed with rounded tips. Many poison oak plants also have yellow-white berries.

Poison SumacAnd the third culprit to blame could be poison sumac, which grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs or swamps. Leaves have clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets. They are orange in the spring, green in the summer and yellow, orange or red in the fall. Many poison sumac plants have yellow-greenish flowers and whitish-green fruits hanging in loose clusters.

All descriptions of the plants can be found by visiting the FDA  .

So, what should you do if your child ends up coming into contact with of one of these plants?

The FDA recommends you try and keep them from scratching blisters as it can cause an infection.

To relieve the itch, try using wet compresses or soaking the area in cool water, applying over-the-counter topical corticosteroid preparations or taking prescription oral corticosteroids, or by applying topical OTC skin protectants, such as zinc acetate, zing carbonate, zinc oxide or calamine dry.

The following is taken directly from the FDA website:

See a doctor if:

  • You have a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • There is pus, soft yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash.
  • The itching gets worse or keeps you awake at night.
  • The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genital area, or covers more than one-fourth of your skin area.
  • The rash is not improving within a few weeks.
  • The rash is widespread and severe.
  • You have difficulty breathing.

And finally, officials note poison plant rashes aren’t contagious. The rashes cannot be spread from person to person, but the rash can be picked up from plant oil that may have stuck to clothing, pets, gardening tools and other items.

For more information visit FDA’s webpage.



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