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Poison Ivy - Poison Ivy Treatment Guide

Outsmarting Poison Ivy


Updated June 25, 2014

With the rise in childhood obesity and more and more kids spending too much time inside playing video games and watching TV, most parents love when their kids go outside to play. Unfortunately, in addition to the sun and bugs, poison ivy can be a big problem for kids playing outside. Poison ivy can also be a hazard to gardeners, people landscaping their yards, hikers, campers, and anyone else who likes to spend time outdoors.

Although some people truly are immune to poison ivy, most people develop a rash after coming into contact with poison ivy or the similar plants, poison sumac and poison oak. If you think you are immune because you have never developed a rash before, keep in mind that it can sometimes take multiple exposures or several years before you finally begin to develop an allergic response to urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy that triggers the rash that most people get.

Whether or not you think that your kids are immune to poison ivy, it is a good idea to not take any chances and to teach your kids how to recognize and avoid poison ivy. Unfortunately, the old 'leaves of three, let it be' phrase isn't usually enough to help kids avoid poison ivy.

Avoiding Poison Ivy

Instead, review some pictures of poison ivy so that they really know what to look for. Since poison oak and poison oak can trigger the same rash, knowing how to recognize and avoid these plants is important too.

If you think you already know everything you need to know about poison ivy, try our poison ivy quiz and find out for sure.
Next, go on an expedition and see if you can find the poison ivy in your yard or other places where your kids play. To be safe, wear long pants and a shirt with long sleeves, boots and gloves, to minimize the chance that you will accidentally be exposed to poison ivy.

If you find it, either take steps to get rid of it or teach your kids to avoid those areas.

Treating Poison Ivy Exposures

If you are exposed, according to the FDA, you should quickly (within 10 minutes):
  • first, cleanse exposed areas with rubbing alcohol.
  • next, wash the exposed areas with water only (no soap yet, since soap can move the urushiol, which is the oil from the poison ivy that triggers the rash, around your body and actually make the reaction worse).
  • now, take a shower with soap and warm water.
  • lastly, put gloves on and wipe everything you had with you, including shoes, tools, and your clothes, with rubbing alcohol and water.
Unfortunately, if you wait more than 10 minutes, the urushiol will likely stay on your skin and trigger the poison ivy rash. You may not be able to stop it on your skin, but you might still scrub your nails and wipe off your shoes, etc., so that you don't spread the urushiol to new areas.

Commercial products, like Zanfel, Ivy Cleanse Towelettes, and Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub, are also available over-the-counter, if you don't want to use rubbing alcohol.

Remember that poison ivy isn't contagious though, so touching the rash won't actually spread it.

Since your kids get poison ivy a lot, having a 'poison ivy action kit' ready, with rubbing alcohol, a large bottle of water, and some soap, might be a good idea. Since rubbing alcohol can be poisonous, children should be supervised with it though and it is not something you should send off into the woods with them.

Preventing Poison Ivy

In addition to getting rid of poison ivy when you find it, you can avoid poison ivy by:
  • wearing long pants and a shirt with long sleeves, boots and gloves when your kids will be most at risk, especially when playing in wooden areas, around lakes, or going on hikes
  • apply Ivy-Block to exposed areas

Related Video
How to Identify Poison Ivy
Natural Bug Bite Remedies

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