Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

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jack_glendening
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by jack_glendening »

PS: I've carried Ivy Block in a small vial while hiking, to put on if I encounter more PO than expected, particularly when wearing thin pants. However that is apparently no longer available. (I do have 2 bottles left, I will have to hoard.)

Jack
Big Sur Trailmap: https://bigsurtrailmap.net
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jack_glendening
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by jack_glendening »

On July 29 Alameda County Search and Rescue hosted a two hour lecture on the topic of poison oak by Dr. William Epstein from UCSF. Dr. Epstein has spend his career studying poison oak and has worked as a consultant for forestry and fire departments. As a team that frequently works in and around poison oak (and over and under) we considered ourselves to be already well educated in the topic. Dr. Epstein's lecture served to confirm much of what we already knew. but he also dispelled some popularly held notions and introduced new ideas in poison oak science. I will attempt to summarize what I found to be the most important points from the lecture:

1. After exposure to poison oak it is best to wash it off immediately with water. According to Dr. Epstein, even though the oil is not water soluble, water can effectively remove much of the decontamination. Commence this rinsing process as soon as possible after the exposure.

2. Solvents such as the commercially available "Tecnu" are effective in removing urushiol oil. Tecnu is a petroleum distillate and is essentially "cheap gasoline." Dr. Epstein recommends isopropyl alcohol as a less expensive and more effective solvent. Don't use it until you are ready to go home though, as it also removes all the lipids from your skin that provide a natural barrier to poison oak.

3. Don't forget to decontaminate your clothes and boots. Clothes should be placed in the washer. Boots are best decontaminated using a solvent.

4. The "Tecnu Armor" barrier cream is not very effective. The barrier preparations Dr. Epstein recommends are either “StokoGard Outdoor Cream” (which reportedly smells like dead fish) or the more pleasant smelling "Ivy Block" which is an organo clay containing cream.

5. For severe cases of poison oak dermatitis, a two week course of prednisone is effective. For his patients, Dr. Epstein prefers to use a two day course of high dose dexamethasone. For a mild or moderate case. a fluorinated corticosteroid cream such as Lidex may prevent further progression. (these are all prescript ion treatments)

6. Despite what the packaging says, OTC hydrocortisone is NOT effective. Calamine lotion. oatmeal soaks. or just plain water should be used because they may be comforting and are not expensive. Antihistamines are of little use except as a sedative to aid in sleep.

7. In the past, preventative measures have been available that contain purified urushiol oil for hyposensitization. but this has been taken off the market. A vaccine is in the works but has not yet been tested on humans.

I want to thank Alameda County SAR for organizing this event and inviting us and Dr. William Epstein for his lifetime of work and his entertaining and informative presentation. Ben Squire
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LBehrmann
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by LBehrmann »

OK, so it appears the Technu pre-exposure lotion no longer exists.

Here are some more tips:

If you know your clothes touched PO, be careful not to touch them to your skin, such as gloves touching your face. Also, keep the clothing separate, even outside your tent (if any). Use Technu with cold water within 2-4 hours, follow the instructions, wash 200 feet away from water to avoid contamination of the wilderness.

If you get a rash, use the Technu several times that day, following the instructions. You can use it the next day and the next.

I have found that it helps to keep hitting it with the Technu.

Zanfel is expensive but is supposed to clear it up completely in one minute. I have not tried it.
LBehrmann
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by LBehrmann »

My Botany teacher said PO PI and poison sumac are the same species of plant, just different varieties. Yes if you are used to getting PO a little won't bother you. The Big Sur Country has extensive stands of PO that often encroach trails. A large rash is hell compared to a spot here and there on the skin. My body has a memory for it. I got a bad rash on my forearms fighting wildfire, and ever since then it takes almost nothing to have my forearms break out into a rash again. Long sleeves and using the Technu pre exposure lotion and the Technu cleaning lotion is recommended.
Blarneyguy
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by Blarneyguy »

Wow.

Having been in CA and seen a lot of PO but generally avoided touching it this past August (first time btw that I'd ever seen PO), this has me...well, not worried, but asking questions.

(I'll be back in March for ten days in Big Sur, most of it camping, hiking and backpacking.)

My experience is with poison ivy. (I don't even think we have PO in the East.) I was susceptible as a child but don't think I have ever had a significant outbreak since...well, before high school.

Can anyone with a lot of experience with both PO and PI chime in? Active ingredient in both - urushiol - is the same, I know that.

And I guess I might be interested in something our original poster (understandably) isn't - don't a lot of people not worry about this much, at all? (That's me with PI.)
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riatch
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by riatch »

I enjoyed this article about Poison Oak in Bay Nature magazine.

http://baynature.org/articles/leaves-of ... oison-oak/
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jbl
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by jbl »

Since I originally posted this question 2.5 years ago, I've generally managed to avoid any bad PO episodes despite much contact with it, due mostly to exercising the extreme vigilance described in my original post plus I've added gaiters to my standard equipment list (these serve multiple purposes, including creating an extra layer of protection in the shin area, where PO contact is most unavoidable on many Ventana and Silver Peak trails, and keeping the upper part of my boots out of reach of the PO).

Two products that are new to me that I've been using are:

"Poison Oak and Ivy Soap" from Paradise Road Soap Co. in Santa Ynez (www.poisonoakandivysoap.com), which is an all natural, mugwort based soap

Domeboro (which may have been around for a while, but I've never noticed it before), which is a powder that you mix with water and then apply to the affected area using a washcloth or other material as a compress.
jeffreyn

Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by jeffreyn »

'Way back in the last millennium I lived a few miles south of Carmel and was surrounded by acres of poison oak. Neighbors were similarly afflicted. I can only relate this anecdotaly, but two of those neighbors, husband and wife, tried this technique. Sick as could be for days, but then recovered and indeed were never again afflicted.

I could imagine the sickness: swollen bronchia, extreme histamine reactions, vomiting and dehydration, perhaps even shock. Not the way I'd want to spend any particular weekend. But I could also imagine my immune system finally figuring what to do with the irritant, assuming I survived so long.


[quote="MarkM"]I've never tried this personally, but I've heard from a number of sources that eating poison oak can significantly lessen the allergic reaction.

See:

http://yankeebarbareno.com/2011/03/03/e ... oison-oak/[/quote]
MarkM

Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by MarkM »

I've never tried this personally, but I've heard from a number of sources that eating poison oak can significantly lessen the allergic reaction.

See:

http://yankeebarbareno.com/2011/03/03/e ... oison-oak/
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jbl
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Re: Poison Oak: Tips, Tricks, Secrets Wanted

Post by jbl »

Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I have definitely found that Fluocinonide helps when I get a spot of PO somewhere, so I did get a prescription and I keep this handy.
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