How to Recognize Poison Ivy | Kids Out and About Boston

How to Recognize Poison Ivy

Leaves of three, let them be!

Hiking with kids is wonderful, but there are hazards! A little knowledge can be your friend.

Poison ivy is deceptive because its leaves change shape and color as they grow. The ends of the leaves may be smooth, or they may have slight rounded teeth.

Here is what poison ivy looks like in the spring, when it is just coming out.



The forest floor is pretty bare at this point, and those little shiny red-green baby trees are NOT trees! Your 4-year-old may think they're pretty, but it contains a chemical called urushiol, which causes an ugly rash and itching on those sensitive to it. The oil is potent even (or perhaps especially) when those leaves are itty-bitty or even when it looks like a rusty-red hairy vine.

Here are couple of views of poison ivy in the summer

Notice that these views are almost completely green. They may still have a reddish hue, though.


In the fall, poison ivy is a pretty, shiny red. Don't touch!


Encountering poison ivy

Wearing pants rather than shorts when hiking, even in hot weather, can protect not only against poison ivy but against bug bites (especially important because of pest-borne illness such as Lyme disease) and scrapes and scratches.

If your child walks through a patch of poison ivy in pants, there is not much to do about it out on the trail except ask them not to touch their lower pant legs and shoes until you can get home and toss them in the washing machine. The oil from the plant can remain active on footwear and clothing for at least six months, so WASH!

If your child inadvertently touches poison ivy with his hands, make every effort to get to water to wash as quickly as possible--a good idea is to carry wipes, anyway. Once home, wash with warm -- not hot -- soap and water. In the meantime, ensure that he does not put his hands in his mouth, near his eyes, or on his face. GOOD LUCK!