A. The most important thing is to teach your kids how to recognize and avoid poison ivy in the first place. Unfortunately, the old 'leaves of three, let it be' phrase isn't usually enough to help kids avoid poison ivy.
Avoiding Poison IvyInstead, 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.
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 accidently 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 ExposuresIf 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.
Commercial products, like Zanfel 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 IvyIn 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
ReferencesFDA Consumer Magazine. Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Its Cousins.
Habif: Clinical Dermatology, 4th ed.