Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is well known for its itchy and irritating effects. This stems from contact with the plant’s oil—urushiol. This allergen triggers a rash upon skin contact, progressing from red streaks to fluid-filled blisters over several days. Learn about the symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures to safeguard your child from this common outdoor menace.

For comprehensive care and expert guidance on managing poison ivy rash, consider scheduling an appointment with After Hours Kids in Austin, Texas. Our dedicated team ensures your child’s well-being, providing personalized solutions even beyond traditional office hours. Contact us today for compassionate support and effective treatment options.

What is Poison Ivy?

The poison ivy plant contains an allergen that causes an itchy rash when touched. Poison ivy, poison oak, and the poison sumac plant all contain an oil called urushiol. It is a sticky, colorless, odorless substance that causes an allergic reaction when it touches the skin.

How a Poison Ivy Rash Progresses

It may take 1-4 days for the rash to develop from the time of contact. The rash will appear first as red streaks before turning into fluid-filled blisters. The rash may continue to appear in new places for up to 2 weeks after initial contact. It may seem like the rash is spreading; however, the rash appears only when there is contact with the oil.

There is a possibility that you could still be making new contact with the oil. For example, the oil could be in your shoes, and you may make contact again after putting your shoes on.

The rash generally lasts up to 3 weeks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Poison Ivy Rash?

Many different types of skin rash can affect children. You can identify poison ivy rash by the following symptoms:

  • Skin rash with fluid-filled blisters.
  • The rash is often streaky, straight lines as the skin often brushes past the plant.
  • After a few days, the blisters dry out and become crusty and flake off.


Other causes of skin rashes in children include heat rash (prickly heat), scarlet fever, or
hand, foot, and mouth disease. These conditions may display other symptoms, such as a fever and sore throat.

When to Call the Doctor

You should contact your doctor if your child has a rash with a fever. If you suspect poison ivy rash, you can use some home treatments to manage the rashes. However, if the skin shows signs of infection, such as increasing redness, pain, warmth, or pus, you should seek medical assistance.

You should also see your doctor if the rash:

  • Has spread to a large area of the body
  • Covers part of your child’s face or genitals
  • Worsens despite home treatment


Doctors can provide medication for severe cases of rash. Pills or creams that contain steroids can help reduce swelling and decrease itching. Antibiotics can be given if there is an infection.

How to Treat Poison Ivy Rash

If you notice that your child has come in contact with poison ivy leaves, take the following actions:

  • Take off any clothing that has touched the plant and wash it.
  • Wash your child’s skin with soap and cool water and scrub under the nails.
  • It’s a good idea to cut your child’s fingernails to prevent them from scratching and breaking the skin. This can lead to infections
  • Use a cool compress on top of the skin.
  • Add oatmeal to the bath water to help soothe itching.
  • Calamine solution can be used to alleviate itching (not for use on their face or genitals).


Oral antihistamine medications could be used but may not be so useful as the itch from poison ivy isn’t related to histamine. A good antihistamine for daytime use is Zyrtec (Fexofenadine). It is an antihistamine that is non-drowsy. It can be taken once, either in the morning or the evening, for severe itching. 

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is another good antihistamine but should be taken at night before bed. Oral antihistamine dosages can be found here:  Allergy Medication Dosages

Preventing Poison Ivy Rash

The key to avoiding poison ivy rash is to identify and protect yourself from it. As it can grow anywhere, you will need to be on the lookout whether you are in your backyard or walking in the forests. You can protect yourself by following these tips:

  • Wash clothes and shoes right away after being around the plant.
  • Wear thick vinyl gloves when working in the garden. Thick vinyl gloves protect much better than latex and rubber gloves.
  • As soon as possible, wash all their skin with warm water and mild soap or dish soap (do not rub or scrub).
  • Avoid burning poison ivy plants or being around those being burned.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Are you ready to address your child’s poison ivy rash with expert care? Schedule an appointment with After Hours Kids today. Our experienced team in Austin, Texas, is here to provide comprehensive assistance and effective treatment options. Don’t hesitate to reach out for prompt and compassionate support.

AUTHOR

AHK Advanced Practice Providers

Our AHK APP’s include: Annie Croft, Pam Dietrich, Erin Moore, and Nikki Nutter,