A: Any contact with the oil of poison ivy, oak or sumac plants can cause an allergic rash. Mild rashes can be treated at home with over-the-counter products and mostly cause discomfort from itching, burning or blistering. More severe, widespread rashes require medical treatment.
What to do: Remove any clothing that has touched the plant or rash. Wash all clothing recently worn. Gently wash affected skin and scrub under fingernails right away with soap and water. If on a child, be sure that his or her fingernails are short or cut them short to keep the child from breaking the skin when scratching. Place cool compresses on affected skin as needed, especially for children. For itching, add oatmeal to the bath, use calamine lotion (avoid using on the face and/or on the genitals) and if needed, use diphenhydramine.
Seek medical care if the person has a known severe allergy to poison ivy, oak or sumac, develops swelling of the tongue or throat, complains of chest tightness or difficulty breathing or was given a shot of epinephrine.
Teach family members what poison ivy, oak and sumac look like and how important it is to avoid it.
Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants whenever you are close to these plants.
Wash your hands well when coming in from outside.
Information from “Your Growing Child, A kids Health Guide to Injuries and Illnesses,” submitted by Ronda Montgomery, Norwalk Family Physicians 801 Colonial Circle, 285-3200.