Insect bites and poisonous plants: A guide for parents
Outdoor fun can sometimes include not-so-fun things like poison ivy and bug bites. Rebecca W. Shoaf, MD, shared how you can prevent or treat these conditions when your children are enjoying the outdoors.
Poison ivy and poison oak
Half of children who come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak have an allergic reaction. The skin becomes red, swollen and blistered, with a rash appearing in streaks or patches.
Preventing exposure is key. Make sure your child knows what poison ivy and poison oak look like. If your child comes in contact with the plant, wash immediately with soap and water to remove the sap or oil. Also, be sure to clean any balls, frisbees, shoes or tools that may have contacted the plant.
Thicker skin and areas that had less contact with the oils break out later than thinner skin and areas of greater exposure to the oils. This can sometimes make you believe the breakout is spreading. However, once the oils have been washed from the skin, it cannot spread to another body part or to another person, even from blistered or weepy rash areas.
To ease itching and oozing that may occur, soak the affected area in cool water and apply a hydrocortisone cream. While mild cases can be treated at home, consult a doctor if your child is especially uncomfortable, if the rash is severe, if it has erupted on your child’s face or groin, or if it shows signs of infection (fever, redness and swelling).
Mosquitoes, biting flies, fire ants, and ticks can make children miserable. While most children have only mild reactions to insect bites, some children can become very sick. To keep your child safe follow these tips:
- Avoid wearing bright colors and floral patterns when playing outside.
- Stay away from garbage cans and dumpsters.
- Always wear insect repellent.
- Teach your children to recognize and avoid fire ant hills and visually scan outdoor play areas for new mounds before allowing a toddler to explore.
When it comes to insect repellent, Dr. Shoaf offered these tips:
- Read the label and follow all directions.
- Never apply to children younger than two months.
- Apply just enough for full coverage, using more doesn’t make it more effective.
- Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen.
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