How to Keep Children Safe from Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
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How to Keep Children Safe from Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

An allergic reaction is typically caused by skin that has contact with poison ivy or poison oak. Some reactions can be extremely severe and even life threatening. When it comes to our children finding ways to keep them safe from these plants is extremely important. This article outlines identifying poison ivy and poison oak and first aid treatment.

Being more health conscious with our children means seeing they receive more physical exercise. The best physical exercise for children includes spending time outdoors. Not only can children receive more exercise than sitting in front of a television playing video games, but they will receive sunshine which also has its own health benefits. As well as receiving more sunshine outdoors they are more susceptible to coming into contact with things such as poison ivy or poison oak. Poison ivy is the leading cause of skin rashes in children spending time outdoors. Along with children coming into contact with poison ivy and poison oak, gardeners, hikers, campers and anyone else spending time in the great outdoors may also feel the effects of coming too close to these irritating plants. Find ways to keep children safe from poison ivy and poison oak.

Identifying poison ivy or poison oak

Find pictures of poison ivy and poison oak and review these with your children. Make certain they understand the differences these plants have from other plants around your yard or places they will be playing. Quiz them to make certain they actually know what they are looking for in these plants.

Poison ivy has three shiny green leaves plus a red stem while growing in the form of a vine. Poison oak is a shrub with three leaves and looks very similar to poison ivy.

Scout your own backyard to assure you don’t have these plants where they play. Take the necessary steps to get rid of the poison ivy and poison oak or teach your kids to avoid the area where you do find the plants to keep children safe from poison ivy and poison oak.

Wear the right clothing

Wearing the right clothes when hunting for these plants in unfamiliar surroundings is a good idea. A great example is when you go camping and are scouting the area for these plants. Before letting them run free to play, do a preliminary scout of the area where they will be playing for poison ivy and poison oak plants. While searching for the plants wear gloves, boots and long sleeve shirts. Wearing the right clothing when you may be accidentally exposed to poison ivy and poison oak will keep children safe.

Where to find poison ivy and poison oak

Poison ivy and oak can be found nationwide or across the United States. The only exceptions are Hawaii, Alaska and the southwestern United States. Poison oak is more likely to be found on the West Coast of the U.S.

Poison ivy grows around bodies of water especially along riverbanks and the shrubs of poison oak like to hide nearly any place shrubs grow. Remember both plants are similar in their overall look and can be easily confused. Therefore, take special care when you think you may have found poison ivy or poison oak to avoid it. Better to be safe than sorry to keep children safe from poison ivy and poison oak.

The red blistered and bumpy skin rash is the result of the skin coming into contact with the sap or resin of poison ivy or poison oak. Even your skin exposed to the smoke from burning these will trigger the same rash as your skin physically touching these plants.

There are times when children have been exposed to poison ivy or poison oak and you still can keep them safe.

First aid for poison ivy and poison oak

If immediate exposure is treated within 10 minutes, treat the area with rubbing alcohol then flush with clear waters (no soap). To be careful to remove all of the resin from poison ivy and poison oak from clothing, remove it and take a shower with soap and water. Finally, treat all clothing and shoes with the same rubbing alcohol and soap and water routine. In place of rubbing alcohol pharmacies and camping stores do sometimes carry products which are specifically designed for exposure to resin. These are labeled as Zanfel, Ivy Cleanse Towelettes and Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub. These have been very effective in removing the resin from the skin.

If children happened to be playing with toys, wash these too. Make certain any place resin could have transferred to is cleaned after treating the skin.

The resin from these plants can enter the skin very fast. If the initial 10 minutes have passed make sure you thoroughly wash the skin with soap and water. Try to treat it as soon as possible within at least 30 minutes of exposure to minimize the effects of the resin.

When washing skin to remove the oils, don’t forget under fingernails. Sweating or being overheated can make the itching from exposure worse. Keep skin as cool as possible. Put cool compresses on the skin where the rash has affected it.

The itching is typically the worst part of the rash for children. It is easy to tell them to rub and not scratch, but anything you can do to help is appreciated by your little patients.

The itching and blistering from the rash can be treated with hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion. The itching can also be treated with Benadryl or similar antihistamine. Taking a bath in oatmeal products which can be found at most pharmacies will really sooth itchy skin and Aluminum acetate helps dry out the rash and decrease itching.

When a doctor should be called for your children

There are times when first aid at home doesn’t do the trick and a physician may need to be called for your child. Some reactions to the plants can be severe enough to be life threatening.

Some doctors will prescribe injected steroids for children with severe cases of exposure to poison ivy and poison oak. This can be seen when the rash is in the face or around the genital area. Resin that has started to produce a poison ivy or poison oak rash on the face or genitals should be an immediate red flag to contact a doctor.

A poison ivy or poison oak rash that has any signs of infection should definitely be seen by a physician.

Calling 911 or visiting an emergency room is called for when a severe allergic reaction occurs with swelling which can result in difficulty breathing or exposure to the smoke of a burning poison ivy or poison oak plant. Severe uncontrollable itching or a rash in the face also will result in an emergency room visit for the children.

There are some people that have a natural immunity to these plants. Though, the majority of us will find we develop an allergic reaction whenever we have a skin contact with poison ivy or poison oak. Don’t discover by accident whether or not you or your children have a natural immunity to poison ivy or poison oak. It’s a great idea to learn to recognize the plant and avoid it. If you are unable to avoid it and if for some reason you come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak there are ways to treat the irritating affects. 

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Comments (2)

Excellent article. Poison Ivy and Poison Oak info is helpful for all. Voted.

Peter Curtis

Good article for parents.