Q&A with Dr. Jay

Question: My 9 year old son was playing at a park with some wooded areas. He started itching his legs the next day and now the rash is very red. I am afraid it is poison ivy. What is the best remedy?

Dr. Jay: First, try to make an appointment with your doctor to rule out other causes of this rash such as insect bites, infections or other allergic reactions. A typical area that has been exposed to poison ivy will have redness and blisters that are shaped like streaks or patches. The onset of symptoms are usually 1-2 days after exposure. Unfortunately, there is no cure and the symptoms can last up to 2 weeks. All that can be done is to make the patient comfortable and ease the itching. Placing cold compresses on the affected areas may help. Start giving an antihistamine such as Benadryl every 4-6 hours. Your doctor will tell you how much to give. Topical creams like hydrocortisone may also help with the itching. In very bad cases, an oral steroid may be indicated to help with the itching and swelling. Wash the clothes that he was wearing thoroughly because the oil or sap can still cause itching for about a week. The liquid coming from the blisters are not contagious. Keep the area clean and watch for signs of infection such as pus or soft yellow scabs. Your doctor may have to add a oral antibiotic if an infection occurs.

Question: My newborn daughter has just had her heel pricked and some blood collected and sent to the state. Why are they doing that?

Dr. Jay: The nurses have collected some blood and placed it a blotter and sent to the state for the Infant Metabolic Screening Test. Some people call it the PKU test after one of the tests that are on it. It is a state requirement to do this test. The tests that are on it are different for every state but in general, are very similar. In essence, they are testing your child for diseases that cannot be detected right away but can be deadly if not detected. The most common tests are for thyroid disease and diseases of the blood cell hemoglobin such as Sickle Cell disease. The newest test that has just been added within the last two years is the test for Cystic Fibrosis. When the results are in, if there is anything wrong or unusual, you will get a letter from the state letting you know that you must get further testing to confirm the screening test. Your pediatrician will also get a letter and will also know that further testing is needed. If you have not heard for several weeks about the test, do not be worried because if the tests were negative, the state does not immediately contact you or your doctor. In general, no news is good news but please ask your pediatrician if you have not heard back in a month.

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