While outdoor play is healthy for kids, poison ivy can be a big problem for children playing outside in summer. Poison ivy can also be a hazard to people gardening, landscaping, hiking, camping, and anyone who spends time outdoors.

Although some people truly are immune to poison ivy, most people develop a rash after coming into contact with it. It can sometimes take multiple exposures or several years before you finally begin to develop an allergic response to urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all), the chemical in poison ivy that triggers the rash most people get.

It’s a good idea to teach your kids how to recognize and avoid poison ivy. Here’s some detail:
  1. It has three leaflets
  2. The middle leaflet has a longer stalk than the other two
  3. Leaflets are fatter near their base
  4. Leaflets are all about the same size
  5. No thorns along the stem
  6. Clusters of green or white berries may be present
  7. Aerial roots may be visible on the stem

If you think they may be at risk, you can block contact by dressing your children in long pants and a shirt with long sleeves, and even gloves when they play in unfamiliar wooden areas, around lakes, or going on hikes. According to the FDA, if you’re exposed, you should quickly (within 10 minutes):

  • Cleanse the exposed areas with rubbing alcohol or an over-the-counter product like Zanfel, Ivy Cleanse Towelettes, or Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub
  • Wash the exposed areas with water only (no soap yet, since soap can move the urushiol oil around your body and actually make the reaction worse).
  • Shower with soap and warm water.
  • Wipe everything you had with you, including shoes, tools, and your clothes, with rubbing alcohol and water.

Remember that poison ivy isn’t contagious so touching the rash won’t actually spread it. Most people see the rash go away in a few weeks. If you have a serious reaction, you should see a dermatologist right away. Swelling is a sign of a serious reaction – especially swelling that makes an eye swell shut or your face to swell. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, go to an emergency room immediately.