Poison Ivy The Camper's Foe

Let’s face it: if you go camping regularly the chances are that your child will be a victim of poison ivy sooner or later. Children tend to run into the thickest bushes to play hide and seek despite all the warnings from adults.

So if your kid develops a red, swollen, itchy rash on the exposed areas of skin (face, arms, legs) it is most likely poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. The rash develops within 12-48 hours after the contact with the plant. However, it may take much longer and up to a week, which is followed by oozing blisters that become crusty over a few days.

While the rash is not dangerous by itself, it is very itchy and it is hard to keep children, especially toddlers, from scratching it till it bleeds. And this is when it might become infected and dangerous.

There is really no cure for the rash, which is caused by a strong and irritating oil in the sap of these plants, called urushiol. It may be contracted through direct contact with the plant or an object that touched the plant, such as a ball or dog’s fur. So sometimes it is hard to identify directly what caused the problem. My son Mark once got poison ivy poisoning by touching his own infected sweatshirt while he was taking it off. So you can see that wearing long sleeves will not always prevent the rash.

To ease the itching and prevent scratching you can do a few things:

Give your toddler a cooling bath with some colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or baking soda.

Make cool compresses with baking soda paste or rub the itching area with calamine lotion a few times a day.

Now all you can do is wait till it gets better and disappears, usually within 14-20 days.

The biggest problem is that the rash is really a type of an allergic reaction and once it occurs it will reappear every time a child comes in contact with the offensive oil of the plant or even without it. I have heard of cases when a child gets a rash in the same spots every time he is very hot and sweaty.