What Your Kids Need to Know About Poisonous Plants

Summer is a season filled with outdoor activities for children. Whether your child is headed to a summer camp, or is simply playing in your backyard, it is always good for them to know the hallmark characteristics of common poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

General Rules Treatment for poison ivy rash

You may have heard the phrase, “Leaves of three, let it be”. This little rhyme refers to the shape of many dangerous plants, though not every single plant with three leaves is poisonous. Poisonous plants like poison ivy and poison oak consist of compound leaves, which means that there are multiple leaflets that make up one large leaf.

Another good rule of thumb is to keep an eye out for leaves that appear to have a waxy or oily coating on them. This is a sign that the plant is covered in a toxic substance that will cause a reaction when it comes into contact with the skin.

Poison Ivy Identification

There are three main characteristics to look for when identifying poison ivy:

  • Green leaflet clusters of three with each cluster growing on its own stem
  • Lack of thorns
  • Alternate leaf arrangement

There are several different types of poison ivy depending on your particular geographical location and the current season. It is certainly advised to research the specific types of poison ivy growing nearby in order to give your child a clear idea of what poison ivy looks like, should they stumble across it.

Poison Oak Identification

The following is a list of attributes that are commonly associated with poison oak plants:

  • A vine or upright shrub that stands at roughly 3 feet in height
  • Fuzzy, lobed leaves of three that have tooth-like edges
  • Coloring that blends into surrounding foliage

Typically, poison oak is found in Southeastern states or along the West Coast. It is not quite as widespread as poison ivy, but can be difficult to identify because it has the ability to blend in seamlessly with other plants nearby.

Poison Sumac Identification

This third type of poisonous plant looks considerably different than poison ivy or poison oak, and usually consists of the following features:

  • Green, fern-like leaflets that have an oval shape with a pointed tip
  • 7-13 leaflets on a single stem
  • Appears as a shrub or small tree
  • May have shiny cream or pale yellow colored berries

Treatment for Poisonous Plant Rashes

All of these poisonous plants will cause a sort of rash that appears on the skin in the area that has come into contact with the toxins of the plant. These rashes all look fairly similar with only minor differences that can be difficult to distinguish.

Treatment for poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac is relatively the same. If the affected area is small enough, your child may be able to treat the rash using home remedies such as cool baths and calamine lotion.

If the rash has spread significantly and your child is unable to find relief in these at-home treatment methods, it is best to contact a pediatrician  so that they can continue with more aggressive treatment options. Seeking immediate medical attention is also necessary if your child experiences an anaphylactic reaction to any of these plants as this can be life-threatening.