Poison Oak - ugh!

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 - 1:42pm

After a weekend of clearing brush and blackberry canes, I'm enjoying a nice outbreak of poison oak.

So far it's remaining at a moderate level, which is good because I'm pretty allergic to the stuff. Really allergic, actually.

Here's a picture of my face from my last bout with poison oak:

Fortunately, it's not nearly that bad this time (yet). But it's still mighty uncomfortable.

Two questions for this group:

  1. Any tried-and-true remedies to recommend for treating poison oak rash?
  2. Any advice on how to remove/kill the plants without herbicides?

Itchily yours,

Adam

16 Comments

Ken C's picture
Ken C
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 13 2009
Posts: 753
Poison Oak, Ivy, Sumac

Adam,

I have had many bouts with poison oak and sumac; not a whole lot of fun.

For over the counter help cortizone cream is useful but just barely. If you go to the doctor/ clinic they can get you prescription pills that you take over a period of about a week that will clear it up rapidly.

For prevention the next time you are exposed have some TECNU oak/ivy cleanser. This is over the counter and it works great for getting off the oils that cause the rash. However, you need to wash with it within 2-3  hours of exposure. Get the oils off your skin before they attack your skin and you won't get the rash.

I hope this helps .

Ken

A. M.'s picture
A. M.
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Posts: 2311
Awful stuff

Without Herbicide? Move away from it. 
Even burning it is pretty dangerous. 

I got a case that was pretty bad one year and it was (give or take) one of the most uncomfortable 3 weeks of my life. I ended up trying mineral baths, salves, and all sorts of home remedies. In the end, cortizone was the solution. For Poison oak, I don't think a conservative approach to treatment is warranted. Go straight for the cortizone and try and beat it before it spreads.

If you suspect exposure, alcohol (isopropyl worked for me) will help to neutralize and dessicate the poison sacs and will go a long way to minimizing the impacts. 

Best wishes, Adam, I feel for you.
Aaron

JRB's picture
JRB
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Adam, I am not sure about

Adam,

I am not sure about poison oak, but we have had some success with jewelweed for poison ivy.

http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail100.php

You might find some near your creek.  Our lot has bad news/good news - plenty of poison ivy/a good growth of jewelweed (wild impatiens) by a spring fed ditch by our road.  In the spring the plant has a very succulent stem that we crush and rub on skin as a preventative or on a rash to relieve the itch and hasten recovery.

I remember seeing a reference many years ago in a book by Euell Gibbons http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stalking-the-healthful-herbs-euell-gibbons/1100893121?ean=9780911469066 that suggested making a strong infusion and freezing ice cubes of it for use during the winter when the plant was not available.

Our best approach with the PI is to recognize and avoid it!

Best wishes!

Jim

RaviNathan's picture
RaviNathan
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Posts: 31
Poison Oak-UGH

Adam,

If the poison oak is all over like in the photo, I would use a steroid dose pack obtained from a physician. For less severe and along with prednisone I swear by DMSO but there are things you need to know about its use. I can be more detailed if you are interested, so let me know. Its amazing stuff. I have used it immediately after exposure as a wash like Technu (which I like also) and for the acute rash. I would not use it full strength on the face. Acupuncture that uses the tendinomuscular meridians (Wei chi) can be very helpful for discrete rash areas.

For clearing the stuff, goats!

Feel better soon!

Debra London

RaviNathan's picture
RaviNathan
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 15 2011
Posts: 31
Poison Oak-UGH

Adam,

If the poison oak is all over like in the photo, I would use a steroid dose pack obtained from a physician. For less severe and along with prednisone I swear by DMSO but there are things you need to know about its use. I can be more detailed if you are interested, so let me know. Its amazing stuff. I have used it immediately after exposure as a wash like Technu (which I like also) and for the acute rash. I would not use it full strength on the face. Acupuncture that uses the tendinomuscular meridians (Wei chi) can be very helpful for discrete rash areas.

For clearing the stuff, goats!

Feel better soon!

Debra London

Heather's picture
Heather
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Posts: 1
Vitamin C to the rescue!

EFT is great for poison oak. Also vitamin C. Here's some info on how to use vitamin C for various things, including allergies (which, as you know, is what a poison oak rash is caused by): http://www.orthomed.com/titrate.htm Basically, take at least 2000 mg of vitamin C every hour (but probably more) until you get loose stools, then back off to 1000 mgs every hour, then 500 mg, etc. It will take care of it quickly and is totally safe. Our bodies need a lot more vitamin C when stressed, sick, or injured, so you'll be able to take A LOT of it before you reach bowel tolerance (loose stools). Most animals synthesize their own vitamin C in their livers (humans used to, but our gene for that is no longer functioning). Rats, for example, produce up to 12,000 mg. of vitamin C in a single day. If you're not feeling better soon, you're not taking enough C and should keep taking higher doses every hour until you reach bowel tolerance. The above link is to an article by a physician who was also one of the most famous vitamin C researchers in history. His work was admired and endorsed by the great Linus Pauling (recipient of two Nobel prizes in science). The article explains this all very clearly. Cathcart himself took 12,000 mg of C every 15 minutes for post-operative pain, and never needed any pain meds (and also didn't reach bowel tolerance with this huge amount, because that's what his body needed at the time).  Good luck!

jasonw's picture
jasonw
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Posts: 782
Dealing with poison oak as well.

Must be a northern california PP staff issue.  Both my 2 year old son and myself have gotten in contact with poison oak last weekend.  (clearing an area for new pallet compost bins) Me a small patch on my arm and Grady on his face and is swollen like a ultra featherwieght boxing champ.  Started calling him Rocky. 

We are currently using Manzanita Magic - an herbal topical lotion that relieves itching (sorta) and helps dry out the affected area.   Also using Rhus Tox. 

From what I have researched, poison ivy, oak, and sumac all contain an oil called urushiol, which causes the allergic reaction and the rashy blisters and pain.  Best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid contact.  If contact occurs, remove oil as soon as possible from skin (tecnu was or just plain soap and water.  wash all items that possibly may have come in contact (clothes, shoes, gloves, animals, etc).  The oil can be active for up to a year on items that have come in contact with it.  Also - is blisters become oozey - they can spread reactions to other areas in contact is made. 

Other remedies the helped out daughter when she got it a few months ago was an oatmeal bath / scrub and we tried the baking soda / vinegar combo.  Get extra water into your system as well. 

Don't know of any natural removal methods yet but that is something to research and ask around about. Lots of old locals who should have some ideas.

Wishing us all a speedy recovery and hopefully it won't take the 3 weeks that Aaron had to suffer through.  (my daughter took about 4 weeks)

- Jason

Denny Johnson's picture
Denny Johnson
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Posts: 324
I got some very welcome

I got some very welcome relief from a bad case of poison oak w prednisone.

Hard to say how effective it was for clearing it up, but there was no new blistering after the first dose.

Would defintely use it again.

Best wishes.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 1820
Many thanks for the sympathy and the suggestions

Wow! There are lot of fellow posion oak/ivy/sumac sufferers among us.

Thanks everyone for the good advice and the long list of treatment recommendations above as well as on our Facebook page. 

What I find amazing, in that in today's age of medical miracles, the literature on how to deal with a PO outbreak is so ill-defined and oftern contradictory (for example, rubbing alcohol has a big pro/con divide) 

Like a hangover, it seems the only sure-fire remedy for PO is time. In my long history of outbreaks, I've only tried cortizone/prednizone/steroid shots once (for the outbreak pictured above) - they didn't help much then, but I'll be willing to give them another try. Oatmeal, topical lotions, mineral salts, etc haven't helped enough to notice. But there are a few new approaches using vitamins, herbs and treatments (e.g. acupunture) mentioned by folks here that I'll be giving a try.

I've found that the hot water trick works well for me. You put your exposed parts under hot water. This makes them itch like CRAZY at first. But soon the nerves get overloaded and the sensitivity numbs down. Keep them under water as hot as you can stand for as long as you can stand (usually ~ 1 min). Then gently dry. I find this buys me a few hours of relief. Plus, doing this several times a day is supposed to get the urushiol toxins out of the skin faster (not sure how true that is, but I'm going with it). Another thing I like about this approach is that it avoids all the goopy/crusty mess of creams, powders, plasters etc.

As outbreaks go, I think this is one is going to be pretty manageable. The spread rate has been relatively slow - so am crossing my fingers it doesn't progress much from here. As long as it stays out from between my fingers and away from more - ahem - sensitive areas, I'll count myself lucky.

For those east coasters, let this serve as a warning to you. I grew up in New England and routinely got 'bad' poison ivy outbreaks. The poison oak out here on the west coast is the industrial-strength, bigger, badder brother of poison ivy. I have no idea what Mother nature was thinking when she made this stuff, but she must have been royally pissed at humankind when she did. Be careful if you come out here to California to enjoy our outdoor splendors...

Denny Johnson's picture
Denny Johnson
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
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Posts: 324
Adam Taggart wrote: In my

Adam Taggart wrote:

In my long history of outbreaks, I've only tried cortizone/prednizone/steroid shots once (for the outbreak pictured above) - they didn't help much then, but I'll be willing to give them another try.

Adam.....The prednisone that I found effective was oral, IIRC a mega dose the first day, tapering off for several days

Best wishes

ckessel's picture
ckessel
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 422
Adam, Sorry to hear of your

Adam,

Sorry to hear of your run in with the 'itchy scratchies'.  I grew up around quite a lot of it here in Sonora and as a youngster was fed goats milk from goats who dined on Poison Oak.  I will not say I don't get it anymore but the worst for me is a pimple sized red spot or two.......and that is if I have been pulling the stuff out of the ground by the roots without gloves for awhile.  I cannot say with certainty that the goats milk was the reason for the immunity but it may be worth a try.

Coop

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
Adam, how's it going?

Would love an update -- have you gotten relief from any other remedies?  Hope it's on its way out.

ao's picture
ao
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Posts: 2220
I agree with both Aaron and

I agree with both Aaron and Jim.  See a doc and get a prescription corticosteroid.  Then, find some jewelweed.  It works. 

As for the person who recommended EFT for poison oak, if you're talking Emotional Freedom Technique, that's like recommending a psychiatrist for a knife wound.  He'll help you deal with the trauma but you'll still be bleeding out.

Ken C's picture
Ken C
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 13 2009
Posts: 753
Denny Johnson wrote: Adam

Denny Johnson wrote:

Adam Taggart wrote:

In my long history of outbreaks, I've only tried cortizone/prednizone/steroid shots once (for the outbreak pictured above) - they didn't help much then, but I'll be willing to give them another try.

Adam.....The prednisone that I found effective was oral, IIRC a mega dose the first day, tapering off for several days

Best wishes

Yep _ I got the same prescription from the clinic. Symptoms were pretty much gone in about a week. Prevention is much better. Use TECNU soap after exposure.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 1820
Hanging in

Thanks for checking in on me Amanda & others. I'm hanging in OK here at the end of week 1 (PO outbreaks usually last 2-3 weeks for me)

The good news is that the PO reaction is localized to several areas vs a more systemic outbreak like the one pictured in my orginal post. While there has been some spreading since my first report, the itch in the newer areas is less intense.

I haven't been able to locate jewelweed yet, mostly because it's been a busy week with the site and I haven't had much time to search for it. And since I'm doing OK a week in, going to get a shot feels like overkill at this point.

For an outbreak of this intensity, I'm finding the combination of the hot water treatment (described in my previous comment) along with regular daily doses (orally) of Benedril are providing sufficient relief. I'm also popping Vitamin C as Heather recommended.

But I agree with the best recommendation many have made here: focus on preventative measures. In my mind, that's a full-body slather with Technu as soon as you come indoors after being anywhere where PO has even a remote chance of lurking.

I know this, and am usually very careful to practice it, but I didn't last Saturday. Unexpectedly fell asleep by the fire after a day of brush-clearing and missed my normal Technu ritual. Won't make that mistake again... 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Online)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1509
saefty first

I've ben following thas and am sorry you were afflicted. Gloves, long sleeve and long pants sound like awfully good preventative measures, too. And safety glasses. You do NOT want to get that stuff in your eyes. My chiropractor back in NY nearly went blind from it.

FWIW, for poison ivy exposure my father always recomended washing in hot water and Lestoil, since it has a kerosene base and cuts the oil in the plant.

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