Poison ivy plant

Leaves of 3, Let Them Be! Avoiding Poison Ivy with AD

“Can I go out in the woods and play?” In this day of constant screen time entertainment, these words can be golden to a modern parent’s ears. My son loved to play in the woods with his friends. They explored, built forts, and spied on the teenagers. Unfortunately, our woods had a danger lurking out there — poison ivy!

Are people with atopic dermatitis more likely to have a reaction to poison ivy?

Not every person is allergic to urushiol, the oil in poison ivy leaves.  But if you are, contact with this plant causes an intensely itchy, thick rash for days.  A few times my son got it so bad, we had to see his physician for relief.  For people with atopic dermatitis, cracks in the epithelium can make them especially sensitive to the plant. Just walking nearby poison ivy can start the reaction.

We taught my son to identify and avoid the vines (“Leaves of three, let them be.”) But in winter the dried brown leaves mix in with all the other tree leaves. Exploring through the leaves can kick up dust that contains the dangerous oils.

What are some ways to help avoid poison ivy rash?

  1. Clothing is key: Wear long pants and long sleeves. Even though it gets hot in Texas, we encouraged our son to dress protectively when he did go out in the woods. He especially liked to wear his long cargo pants that had lots of pockets for holding his ropes, pocket knife, snacks, and other supplies when exploring the woods.
  2. Stick to the trail: Avoid tramping through the vegetation and dried leaves. We encouraged our little explorer to stick to the paths in the woods.
  3. Watch out for contaminated animal fur: Our dogs were not so good at sticking to the trail. If they walked through the poison ivy, the oils on their coat can rub off on you.  We found it better to walk the dogs in the neighborhood, not through the woods. Roaming cats can also bring in poison ivy oil.
  4. Decontaminate: After playing in the woods, go ahead and remove your protective clothing and take a shower.  Washing the potential oils off can prevent the reaction from happening. We moved bath or shower time up to before dinnertime after playing in the woods.
  5. Over-the-counter products: There are some great over the counter products to use either before exposure, like a barrier cream, or after known exposure, to neutralize the oil.
  6. Don’t pee in the woods: Although it is a great advantage to being a boy in the woods, we learned not to do this the hard way. Too much potential exposure to sensitive areas!
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