Monday, October 31, 2011

Treating Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, And Poison Sumac

Dijukno if you ever get into poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you'll want do anything to get rid of the itching?  All three plants contain an oily sap called urushiol that yields an irritating rash.  It's all over the plant (leaves, stems, and roots), can be transferred onto objects and then onto skin, and can even
be inhaled if the plants are burned.

Stay outside.  If you know you've been exposed, avoid going indoors so you can prevent the spreading of urushiol.

Clean your skin immediately.  If you do this within 10 minutes, you may be able to get the urushiol off before it penetrates your skin. Clean the skin with rubbing alcohol first, then rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Don't scrub or use hot water on your skin. This can draw the urushiol deeper into your pores.

Don't use soap until after you've rinsed off your skin with just water. Soap can pick up the urushiol and move it around to other parts of your body.

Don't go anywhere near urushiol-containing plants that day; the alcohol will make your skin extra vulnerable to it.

Don't forget to clean under your fingernails; you may have scratched off some urushiol and could redeposit it on other objects or areas of your skin by accident.

Since urushiol is an oily resin, it binds to proteins in the skin and, after this process is complete, is nearly impossible to remove.

Recognize the symptoms. If you didn't get the urushiol off in time, an allergic reaction may follow within 48 hours.  First, your skin gets red and itchy.  Then a rash follows, usually in a pattern of streaks of patches. Eventually the rash turns into red bumps or large oozing blisters.  The rash will appear wherever you came in contact with urushiol, although it may take longer for the rash to appear on parts of your body where your skin is thicker.  It doesn't spread, however, because there's no urushiol in the blisters.  Once the urushiol is gone, the rash will go away.

Stop scratching!  Even though the rash is not contagious, it's best to avoid damaging the skin, or else you run the risk of getting an infection from germs.

Wash clothes and anything else that may have come in contact with a poisonous plant (gardening tools, pets, sports equipment, sheets).  Don't underestimate the power of urushiol; it can remain active for over a year.

Cool off.  Take cold baths or showers, apply cold compresses, and/or massage the affected area with an ice cube.  The cooling sensation will provide temporary relief.

Dry off. Always let the area air dry; this reduces the itching and oozing of blisters.

Work to soothe the rash.  Some of the following products can help soothe the itching and irritation of poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac:

Take antihistamines.  They can be taken orally or applied topically, or both.  Unfortunately, these types of products only treat the itching symptoms but do not help the rash heal more quickly.  Antihistamines, generally offer only mild relief from the symptoms of poison ivy, but if taken before bedtime their combination of anti-allergy and drowsiness inducing effects can help you get some rest.

A poison oak/ivy rash Apply Tea Tree oil.  

Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-infection oil.  It is effective against nail fungus, ringworm, athlete's foot, dandruff, acne and many types of infestations including lice, mites and scabies.

Tea tree oil is not just soothing and disinfecting, it is capable of penetrating into the lower skin layers with its anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, analgesic (pain killing) and cicatrizant (wound-healing) qualities.  It helps the skin to heal by encouraging the formation of scar tissue.

People with sensitive skin should introduce the oil with caution.  Tea tree oil is not to be taken internally except as a mouthwash or gargle as directed (do not swallow).   Poison Ivy/Oak & Sumac: Add (?) drops of tea tree oil to 3 Tbls. of baking soda and rub onto affected area.  Wrap with gauze. Apply 2-3 times daily.

I also recommend keeping Technu around in your pack to apply when you are in areas poison oak/ivy are present.

Relieves poison itch fast
Stops urushiol from spreading
Is an excellent value and less expensive than other products
Takes the effectiveness of the original, and very popular Tecnu, and builds on it


  1. This is a good article. Most on this subject have multiple errors. I only have a small correction, and a couple of added suggestions.

    Urushiol is not an oily sap"nor is it an "oily resin", The allergenic oil is a separate component in the resin of the plants. Sap is the nutritional system of the plant. It never turns black. Resin is in canals and oozes out to heal the plant when the surface structure is broken, like pine pitch.

    When in the woods with no official "oil remover," dig down under the mulch and scoop up dry clay. Clay pulls oil to itself. Scrub your skin vigorously with lots of clay. Then finish cleaning up when you can.

    For the itch, heat, just below burning you has been clinically proven to affect the itching nerve network (we have two sets of nerves for itching that are separate from the pain nerve network). Move the area in and out of hot water, or a hair dryer close enough to be uncomfortable, but not burn skin can stop itch for up to 7 hours. Extreme caution is needed. You can find this all over the internet, but nobody seems to know that it is the nerve network that is affected, and not histamine. Clinical studies on this are pretty recent.

    My credentials: I wrote "The Poison Oak & Poison Ivy Survival Guide"


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