Poison ivy cases on the rise

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - Have your kids been hit yet with those telltale red bumps? The itching? And yes, the whining? They're all symptoms of poison ivy, which is having its worst season in decades for some folks this year.

They are the three leaves you gotta leave alone. Parts of the country, specifically the northeast where it's been a little cooler and people are heading out into wooded areas more, has seen a real boom in poison ivy outbreaks.

If you or your kids have gotten "the itch", doctors advise you can stop the spread in two easy steps.

First, "Just wash with cold water and soap," said Dr. Chris Cunha with Pediatric Associates in Crestview Hills, KY. "It just opens the pores and the oils just dive into the pores and then the pores cool off and close and now you've got the oil impregnated down deeper into the skin."

You also don't want to open your pores up to further irritation and a more intense reaction.

"The biggest misconception is the concept that when you have a poison ivy breakout and you've already washed it with soap and water, and once it starts to itch and you scratch it that you're going to spread it to other places," Cunha said.

Not true he said. Cunha is a pediatric doctor. He said the culprit is poison ivy's clear oil, which you can't see, but you will feel its after-effects.

"The poison ivy lesion," Cunha said. "When you finally get the eruption, it will be a little bit weepy but that fluid that's in that lesion, once you've washed that first time with soap and cold water, will not contain anything that will spread it to any other area of the body."

"Step two", Cunha said. "Wash everything you think came in contact with poison ivy."

Take your kids, for example, playing outside. Their clothes, their shoes, their toys, all could have the oil on them.

"They come home at night, they're hot and sweaty," Cunha said. "They don't feel like taking a shower, they go and sleep in their bed, they then transfer the oil to the sheets of their bed."

"You forget to change the sheets on the bed," he said. "The oil is still in the bed, they roll around the next night in the bed, they now have more oil on their skin."

"So it's usually gotten to the point where it's really burning and itching, sometimes looks a little blistery," said Ben Brooks.

And that's when Brooks, who is the Nurse Manager at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence, KY, sees people in his ER.

"We've been seeing some poison ivy come in," Brooks said. "I don't know we've seen a big increase this year, but have been seeing people come in with poison ivy or contact dermatitis, which we assume a lot of times is poison ivy or poison oak."

If there is redness, swelling or pain beyond typical symptoms, call your doctor right away. Poison ivy can hang around 1 to 3 weeks and keep in mind, that the oil can live on surfaces for years and survive several seasons if not washed off.

So, clean your shoes, shoelaces, toys. Doctors said it is not unusual to see cases in the winter because of people touching something that hasn't been cleaned properly.

And don't forget about your pets. While poison ivy won't affect them, the oil on their fur could end-up giving you that dreaded poison ivy itch.

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