Summertime, and the living is ... itchy! Poison ivy, sumac and oak (the most common causes of allergic rashes in this country) flourish where kids love to play: in the woods, by the beach, near the river. The oil from these plants produces a rash in up to 85% of people whose skin absorbs it, says the American Academy of Dermatology.
The best defense? Avoid the plants. Teach your kids how by visiting websites such as kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/ skin/poison_ivy.html.
If exposure occurs, act within 30 minutes. "Wash the area with soap and cold, running water," says pediatrician Lisa A. Hammer, M.D., of the University of Michigan Health System. "But don't scrub or use hot water. This may further open pores or cause more irritation."
If your child (or you) comes in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, follow Hammer's advice to reduce the itch and prevent further spreading:
Chill out. Try cool showers or compresses; massage the area with an ice cube to soothe itching.
Visit the drugstore. Over-the-counter oral or topical antihistamines and calamine lotion help.
Wash everything. Urushiol (yoo-roo-shee-ol), the resin found in all three plants, can stick around for five years. So, launder clothes and shoes, and use rubbing alcohol to clean gardening tools that may have sap on them. Also, bathe your furry friends just in case. Pets don't contract poison ivy, but they can carry the sap on their coats.
Seek medical help. If the itch disrupts daily living, the rash covers the face, or particles from burning plants are inhaled, then call your doctor.
Relax about touching. You can't catch poison ivy from other people unless they touch you while the resin remains on their hands.
Don't scratch. Avoid scratching, because bacteria under your fingernails could cause infection. But scratching won't spread the rash to another body part.