Summer Family Moments

Poison Ivy On Your Boobs: Does it Mean You Have to Wean?

Baby 6

breastfeeding and poison ivy

Don't let your baby play

in poison ivy

Last summer, I got a rash on my breast. I had been breastfeeding for 6 months and had already dealt with bloody nipples and clogged milk ducts (among other things) so I was kind of an expert at self-diagnosing breast issue. I was pretty sure I didn't have thrush, but I couldn't figure out what was going on.

I was nervous about continuing to nurse my daughter, but my doctor had always said it was okay to do so even when I was sick—unless I had a serious disease. I didn't have a fever and was feeling pretty normal (aside from the itchy, inflamed, scaly rash on my breast) so I continued to nurse her. It was painful. I was itchy. The "rash" spread and covered both of my breasts and my upper chest and neck.

I went to the doctor who sent me straight to a dermatologist. The derm diagnosed me with "contact dermatitis" or poison ivy. I had lots of questions:

Could I continue to breastfeed? Yes, the poison ivy would not affect my milk or my daughter's health.

Should I be worried about the poison ivy spreading to my baby? Nope. According to Herbert Goodheart, a dermatologist and the author of Goodheart’s Photoguide of Common Skin Disorders, babies don't get poison ivy even when they've been exposed. The dermatologist assured me my daughter would be fine—and she was. I, on the other hand, suffered for close to three weeks until it cleared up.

Can it be safely treated? Yes. The dermatologist had given me a prescription for a low-dose topical steroid cream. I opted not to use this even though both my OB/Gyn and my daughter's pediatrician said it would be okay to use and breastfeed. Instead, I made a mixture of baking soda and witch hazel and put in on the rash between breastfeeding sessions to alleviate the itch.

How did I get poison ivy on my boobs? The doctor didn't have the answer to this one, but I can make a pretty good guess. We went for a hike, my daughter touched poison ivy, and then she put her fingers in her mouth. I breastfed her and she put her mouth on my nipples as her little hands touched my breasts and my chest and my neck.

To prevent this from happening to you: Wash your hands and your baby's hands immediately after being outside (particularly in a place where there could be poison ivy). Do not breastfeed until you have done so. I now keep a bar of Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap by my sink and use it to wash my hands whenever I come indoors.

Have you ever had poison ivy on your breasts? Do you have any tips for preventing it? Did you continue to breastfeed?

breastfeeding, summer safety


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RanaA... RanaAurora

According to Herbert Goodheart, a dermatologist and the author of Goodheart’s Photoguide of Common Skin Disorders, babies don't get poison ivy even when they've been exposed.

Uh huh, not so much.  The AAP has a specific page on handling contact dermatitis, including poison ivy.  It says NOTHING about babies "not getting it."
BabyCenter has a whole section on how children AND babies get it, and how to handle it.  I know you mentioned this before, and I debunked it last time too.

Poison Ivy Myth/Fact

Are infants and babies immune to poison ivy? It is true that Pediatricians rarely see poison ivy reactions in younger children, but part of the reason for that is that they are less likely to be exposed than older children who are more likely to play and explore in areas where poison ivy grows.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Also, of COURSE you're not going to "give it to your baby."  It's not contagious.

Mayo Clinic:  Your skin must come in direct contact with the oil from the plant in order to be affected. Spreading blister fluid from scratching doesn't spread the rash, but germs under your fingernails may cause a secondary infection.

Poison Ivy Myth

Is poison ivy contagious? Many people think it is, and it is easy to see why, since the rash you get from poison ivy looks as if it should be contagious. But this is one of the biggest myths that is spread about poison ivy. Poison ivy rashes are not contagious. The fluid from blisters and the rash can not spread the rash.

The reason that the classic poison ivy rash seems to spread is that different areas of a person's body typically have different levels of exposure to the urushiol of poison ivy that causes the rash. The rash can also seem to spread if you are re-exposed or if you are exposed to clothing or other inanimate objects that were contaminated and had contact with the poison ivy plants.

Bonnie Todd Rutel

I can't believe I am not the only one this has happened to. It was horrible, but your case seems even worse. Mine was a small hand print right where my son would rest his hand. Anyway, my understanding of allergies is that you won't react the first time you come in contact, but that is how your body starts to become sensitive to it. So the baby won't break out because it is likely the first time touching poison ivy, mom however is not so lucky. Once the oils are washed off it can not spread anymore (thank goodness!) so your baby won't catch it from you. By the time you are itchy you'll have likely bathed, but you may want to find any clothes you've been wearing recently and give them a good wash.

nonmember avatar Britlover

Last summer, I had poison ivy all over my mid-section, breasts, neck and face. I actually stopped breastfeeding for 2 weeks because it was so itchy and painful. And, then successfully started nursing again once it was healed (without pumping during those two weeks). My son was about 16 months at the time. I was completely amazed that I did not get engorged, or have to pump - and then resumed nursing so easily.

coppe... copperswifey

No, I would never think of that even happening. That couldn't have been much fun :/

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