Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 29, 2024

What to Know About The Three Ivies

The dog days of summer reach a whole new level when you notice a strange rash on your kid’s skin. Here’s what it could be and what you should do.

The best summer memories consist of catching lightning bugs, the smoky aroma of grilled hot dogs, kids playing outside until sunset and limitless popsicles. In opposition, summer can have you worried sick when your kids run inside the house with unrecognizable rashes. The best thing to do is not to panic and learn to recognize and treat it, whatever it is. Here is what you need to know.

Kids and Ivy Exposure

Every kid (and everybody) reacts differently to poison ivy, sumac and oak based on how many exposures and how sensitive/allergic they are to the oil, according to Rachel Doll, APRN,CNP, with Mercy Health Physicians.

“Some kids can have very mild reactions, where home and over-the-counter remedies will work,” she explains. “Some will need to see their pediatrician or family provider to get prescription strength oral and topical steroids.”

To ease your mind, it is very rare to need hospitalization from contact dermatitis (or a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it) but this is more likely to happen if any of these three common ivies appear on your kids’ face.

Ivy, Sumac and Oak — What’s the Difference?

Poison ivy, oak and sumac all contain urushiol, a sticky, colorless, odorless oil, and they all come from the same family of weeds and cause similar dermatitis; however, they look different, says Doll. Urushiol is not poisonous, but it is an allergen that can cause allergic reactions in most kids and adults who get exposed to it. Having a hard time differentiating one from the other? One way to tell is based on the plants’ geographical location and how they look, and they all can grow different berries or small flowers along their stems and leaves.

Home Remedies for Relief

Luckily there are quite a few easy home remedies. Oatmeal baths, calamine lotion and cool, wet compresses work wonders with the pain and itching, or even gently rubbing ice cubes on the affected spots multiple times a day can help. Some over-the-counter remedies to relieve itching at nighttime include Cortisone (a steroid cream) and antihistamines, Benadryl or Zyrtec. If your kids have a more severe reaction, your pediatrician or family provider can prescribe higher potency topical steroids, or most providers will order oral steroids or give a steroid shot for more moderate to severe symptoms, says Doll.

“See your provider right away if your kids develop a severe eruption not responsive to previous treatments, any evidence of infection, any new eruption or rash, severe poison ivy on the face, and fever,” she continues.

Read more about educating your kids about the three ivies here. Plus, there is a newer poisonous plant spreading around the state that you should know about.


About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.