The Ivy that Poisons Summer Fun

Lisa Kelch, MDSummerLeave a Comment

The weather is nice now (most of the time) and we encourage kids to play outside. But there are some things to remember before heading for the great outdoors. First, don’t forget to use sunscreen and to avoid another rash we are seeing a lot of; remember, “Leaves of three, let it be.”

The poison ivy plant often grows as a vine around trees but can also be found growing along the ground as well; so kids can be exposed just about anywhere.


Some people feel they are “not allergic” to poison ivy, but everyone would likely develop the rash if exposed to enough of the oil. It is the chemical urushiol, in the oil of the plant, that we react to. It is important to remember that the oil can also get on play equipment such as balls and Frisbees. So when your Frisbee lands in a patch of poison ivy and you don’t realize it, you may suffer the same fate as myself, a nasty rash. Pets playing outside can carry the oil on their coat and then transfer it to a loving family member. Pets, however, are unlikely to develop a reaction.


What can you do once you have come in contact with the plant? First, washing immediately with soap and water can be helpful. Make sure you also wash any clothing that may have come into contact with the plant. The rash is extremely itchy and often consists of small blisters in a line where the plant brushes against your skin. It may be treated with topical lotions and creams such as calamine, Benadryl® and 1% hydrocortisone. Benadryl® liquid (by mouth) can also be helpful, but we don’t recommend using oral and topical Benadryl® at the same time as you can absorb too much of the antihistamine. Please see our Poison Plant Rashes protocol for more details regarding treatment.

You may notice that the rash seems to spread from one area on your skin to another, but scratching cannot spread the rash.  Likewise, the rash is not contagious and you cannot pass it to another person. Areas that had more exposure to the oil may break out first and small patches that seem to erupt later likely just took longer to show up because they had less exposure to the oil. 

Please call our office if you are worried about the severity of the rash or if it is on the face.  But don’t be afraid to get outside and explore. Adventure is out there!

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