As children go outdoors to enjoy the warm weather of spring, you could end up taking your young adventurers to the pediatrician for allergic reactions to poison ivy and/or poison oak.

Green, glossy leaves that grow in clusters of three characterize these common plants. The leaves contain a type of oil that, when spread to the rest of the body by scratching or contact with contaminated clothing or pets, causes irritating symptoms for many children.

“A rash can appear hours to days following contact, eventually developing into red bumps or blisters that often rupture and ooze,” said Jenica Rose-Stine, D.O., pediatrician at Cook Children’s in Willow Park. “For moderate cases, soak the area in cool water or have your child take a cool shower and apply over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. Contact the pediatrician if your child is especially uncomfortable, if the rash is severe or if blisters appear on a sensitive area, such as the face or genital area.”

When it comes to avoiding poison ivy and poison oak, education is the key to prevention. Show your children pictures of the plants so they can learn to recognize them and steer clear. Dress them in long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes if they plan to play in the woods. If they come into contact with the plants, have your children bathe and change their clothes and shoes right away. They may grumble about having to take a break from activity, but a few minutes in the shower eats weeks of discomfort.

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