Nasty Rash Misdiagnosis

Today, I am thankful for Poison Ivy/Oak.  Go figure?  It has been a bit of a stressful week, as Shay erupted in a rash early this week.  It seemed to appear out of nowhere and progressively became more severe.  Tim took him to the walk-in clinic on Thursday and he was told that Shay had eczema.  He left with two different prescriptions, and although we were both surprised by the diagnosis, we administered the medication as directed.  By Friday, I was very concerned.  The rash continued to get worse and seemed to be rapidly spreading.  I called my cousin Elsie, who is a nurse practitioner, as well as the Health Links support line.  After consulting both, we decided a second opinion was warranted, but would wait until Saturday morning to see if the medication was working at all.  I took Shay back to the same walk-in (different doctor) this morning and he was diagnosed with a severe case of Poison Ivy/Oak. She wasn’t sure which, but the doctor was confident it was caused by a plant.  He was put on a very high dose of steroids and hopefully we are on the mend.


Some things didn’t make sense with the original diagnosis. In our little bit of google research, we learned that:

  • eczema often runs in families and commonly occurs in families/patients with allergies

Kids who get eczema often have family members with hay fever,asthma, or other allergies. Some experts think these kids may be genetically predisposed to get eczema, which means characteristics have been passed on from parents through genes that make a child more likely to get it. (Kids Health)

  • most people have eczema “flare-ups” that can be caused by a variety of triggers or allergens, but the first bouts almost always occur as infants or toddlers, before the age of five
  • the most common areas for a flare-up in school age children are behind the knees, inside the elbows, on the sides of the neck, and on the wrists, ankles, and hands

We have no eczema in our family. Shay has no confirmed allergies, has never had eczema in the past and the area most affected was his lower abdomen and groin area.  This “primary site” had a very severe rash that extended across most of his lower abdomen and down into the groin area.  As it spread, there was rash appearing on his back, chest, neck, behind his ears and on his face and near his hairline.  It was really scary to see this “thing” moving so quickly, almost like a plague. The medication was not doing anything to control it.  By this morning, he had quite an outbreak on his face and all of it was intensely itchy and raw looking. We were able to get into the doctor without too long of a wait and I am so thankful for the new diagnosis and that his condition is not something more serious.

Poison Ivy/Oak

I have had very little experience with either.  Eden came home from Girl Guide camp with Poison Ivy in June, but we did very little to treat it (calamine lotion) and it seemed to run its course quite quickly. I have never had it and neither has my husband, so we really had never seen anything like it. These three plants contain a rash-triggering plant oil called urushiol.

Poison Oak, Ivy and Sumac

When we were originally wondering about an allergic reaction, we didn’t even consider this as an option.  We were thinking about dryer sheets, soaps, creams, etc.  However, I was very surprised to learn that it can take from 5 to 15 days for the rash to show up after exposure to the plant!  I never would have guessed that.  We were at an outdoor wedding at the end of September and Shay also spent 3 days at camp with his class in early October.  In both scenarios, he was in the bush, so exposure was definitely a possibility.

The rash usually appears 8 to 48 hours after your contact with the urushiol. But it can occur from 5 hours to 15 days after touching the plant.1 The rash usually takes more than a week to show up the first time you get urushiol on your skin. But the rash develops much more quickly (within 1 to 2 days) after later contacts. The rash will continue to develop in new areas over several days but only on the parts of your skin that had contact with the urushiol or those parts where the urushiol was spread by touching. (webmd)


Fortunately, our family is allergy free, at least for the most part. We have had bouts where the doctor has recommended a regular sinus flush for a nasal drip or extended sniffles, but definitely nothing that warrants a medical intervention, medication or epipen (thank the Lord!). The strange thing about allergies is that they can also develop seemingly out of nowhere. You will often hear people share how they have developed food sensitivities/allergies as they get older and pregnancy is no exception. In this article, from MomLovesBest, they highlight causes and signs of allergies, but also specifically address pregnancy induced allergies.  Luckily, in our case, it was not an allergy and therefore is not an ongoing problem we need to deal with, but it is important to be aware of common allergy symptoms, just in case a sensitivity has developed or perhaps, just been discovered.

In Summary:

Again, I am just so thankful that Shay has been properly diagnosed (I hope!) and that we are going to get rid of this before it overtakes his entire body.  I knew in my gut something was off.  Trust your instincts.  I hate to run to the doctor unnecessarily and tend to rely on Health Links for a second opinion when I am unsure.  They are excellent and have provided good advice many times in the past. I think many of us grew-up putting all of our trust in doctors and believing that doctors always know best. Our son was misdiagnosed and I don’t feel that the doctor considered Shay’s  medical history or asked enough questions to get to the bottom of his condition. We must advocate for our loved ones when we know that something is not right.  I often see this as a teacher. I will sometimes have medical concerns regarding specific students and suggest a medical appointment to investigate.  This can be anything from observations regarding vision, hearing, inattentive behaviours, chronic colds/sinus issues to constant trips to the bathroom. It is amazing to me how many times parents are told “it is nothing” and then upon further future exams, there is a diagnosis that has been left untreated.  I remember one such incident involving the vision of a student and the profound impact it had on the child’s experience in school.  As parents, we often have to be more adamant and go for that second opinion when we feel there is something off.