Nov 10, 2010 at 10:50 am #1265336
Wondering if any of you have any products, tips or tricks to either protects against getting poison oak, and to treat it once you have it?
I do a bit of weekend backpacking in Big Sur and I always get it when I go there, which is the only bad part about the area. If I could avoid getting poison oak while there I would be stoked!
Any ideas or tips would be awesome!
DanNov 10, 2010 at 11:04 am #1662886
There are two separate types of medicine. First, you want to use a preventative. Long clothes. Next, if you have much exposed skin, you want to use a poison oak blocker, typically an ointment that contains Bentoquatam. That keeps the stuff from getting into your skin.
If you have gone in without protection and the rash starts to show up, then you want to use an OTC medicine that contains Calamine and Benadryl. The stuff that I last used was called Caladryl since it had both in it. This does not cause the rash to disappear 100%. It does cause the scratchiness of the rash to be reduced so that you can live with yourself while it heals.
If you do get the rash, there is an old axiom about poison oak. If you treat it, the rash will go away in about 14 days. If you do not treat it, the rash will go away in about two weeks.
–B.G.–Nov 10, 2010 at 11:09 am #1662889
SO I always wear long clothes, and tuck everything in to minimize skin exposure. At the end of the day I wash up REALLY well with stuff called Tecnu which is supposed to break down the oils and get them off your skin. But it seems to matter what I do, I ALWAYS get it. And your right…it seems no matter what I do to treat it once I have it, it never heals any faster.
Are there certain times of year to go when the plant is dormant, or is not producing the oil?Nov 10, 2010 at 11:18 am #1662896
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
I don't think there's a time of year where you can't get PO. Would that there were!
The protocol is basically:
1. Apply PO blocker.
2. Cover as much of your body as you can (minimize skin exposure).
3. Wash with Tecnu. Supposedly cold water is better to wash with. Warm water opens up your pores and allows the PO to get in.
I might try applying PO blocker even to areas that aren't going to be exposed.
Dunno. Sometimes when you go through really bad PO, you're just going to get PO. At least that's my experience. I try to find trails without too much of the stuff if I can.
The worst part of PO is that it typically gets worse with exposure. In other words, the more you're exposed to it over time, the more your body will react to it. Isn't that a nice thought? I hate PO!
HJNov 10, 2010 at 11:19 am #1662898
What I am about to state only applies to California's poison oak. Other plants may be different.
Tecnu or something like that can go on your skin. Long clothing covers the skin as well. If you still get the rash, I can guess about how that happened. It happened when you removed the contaminated clothing, got the oils on your fingers, and then migrated it to other skin surfaces. When you remove contaminated clothing, wash that clothing immediately before it can spread the oils to anything else. It is particularly easy to pick up the oils if your skin is sweaty.
Poison oak plant looks green and fresh in the springtime. The oils are on the leaves. Then it turns green and red during summertime, and the oils are still on the leaves. In the autumn, it turns brown and then the leaves drop, exposing woody stems. The oils are still present, but you won't get as many of the oils onto your skin. (However, the last time I got a rash by the coast, it was from walking past a thicket of woody poison oak bushes without leaves.)
The plant can grow as a bush, or it can send a vine up along a tree trunk. I've seen poison oak vines 60 feet up in a tree.
–B.G.–Nov 10, 2010 at 11:22 am #1662899
Pay attention to your clothes, shoes(laces), and pack.
The oils will be there after you get home, and if you're prone, you'll get it the day After the trip.Nov 10, 2010 at 11:46 am #1662911
I did an East Bay hike one time, and poison oak was all around me, but I was wearing at least two layers of clothing. I got home about two hours after the hike, and I was going to shower when I noticed a weird pink streak across my ribs. By the next day, that had matured into a standard poison oak rash. I could never quite figure out how it got through clothing in that area, but that is the nature of the beast.
Poison oak is especially bad if you get the oils on your hands, and then you "water a bush."
The only good news is that in California, poison oak plant does not grow much above 5000' elevation. That's why my summer trips are all 7000' and above.
–B.G.–Nov 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm #1662925
@lopezLocale: San Gabriel Valley
My experience with poison oak has been completely different after meeting tecnu. With tecnu, i cover my body before exposure, then i wash my body with tecnu after exposure. using this method i still get small rashes but it does not spread, dries out quickly and it does not itch nearly as much. YMMV.Nov 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm #1662928
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
I don't think the rash is limited to the point of contact, the oil spreads through the blood, IIRC. The rash appears later.Nov 10, 2010 at 12:42 pm #1662930
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I get poison oak all the time, as I work in it. The best product I have found is called Zanfel, sold at CVS. A small tube, 4 oz. costs 45.00 dollars :( but if I use it in the first 2 days after exposure, my rashes don't get too bad. When I use it, my skin just has a bunch of red dots that don't itch too bad; when I don't use it,my skin swells, oozes and all that. Of everything I have tried, this has worked the best for me.Nov 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm #1662955
@akajutLocale: Central Oklahoma
+1 on Zanfel. I saw an huge change within 10 minutes of application. Itching and swelling were greatly decreased. If anything started back up, a second application did the trick.Nov 10, 2010 at 2:10 pm #1662958
@nickbLocale: Los Padres National Forest
If you haven't seen it already, the folks over on the Ventana Wilderness Forum also have a thread on treating/avoiding PO, here: http://www.ventanawild.org/forum08/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=381&sid=23b3b58feb0c3c2df288a97a3857bf41.
(sorry don't know how to do a hyperlink here)
I don't have any first-hand advice to share as I have yet to become succeptible to the stuff, but the pre-treatment and covering yourself up and treating/washing again once you're exposed method seems hard to beat. I've heard a dip in the ocean helps to soothe the itching; maybe plan to end each hike in Big Sur with a quick rinse before the drive home.Nov 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm #1662960
"I don't think the rash is limited to the point of contact, the oil spreads through the blood, IIRC"
The initial reaction is at the contact points. If things get out of hand it can go systemic, presenting anywhere.Nov 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm #1662992
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
Thanks for the Ventana Wildnerss Forum link to their thread on poison oak.
To do a link on this forum, use standard html tag (a href=, etc).
HJNov 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm #1662998
@davidlutzLocale: Bay Area
Kat and Adan – Let us know how you guys fare after this coming weekend in Ventana.
Maybe one of you can be the control and not use any prevention measures.
You'll have to draw straws, I guess!Nov 10, 2010 at 4:40 pm #1663004
Poison Oak/Ivy/Sumac is a form of contact dermatitis. The urushiol oil is spread strictly through contact. It does not get in the bloodstream and spread. That one is 100% myth.Nov 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm #1663033
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I wear long clothing and also wash with water on the trail if I think I've touched it.
I've been asked about the poison oak in the Ventana wilderness. I've never been there. Is it really that bad? Do you have to fight your way through it or does it just lean over the trail here and there?Nov 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm #1663083
"Is it really that bad?"
There were bad trail places all over prior to the big fires, but afterward, some of the trail areas were maintained a bit, so the poison oak situation changed.
I heard just the other day that the Pine Ridge Trail (Barlow and Sykes Camps) is in good condition and the poison oak is cut back.
–B.G.–Nov 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm #1663086
@efredricksenLocale: Silicon Valley
Once you've got it:
One time when I had poison oak really bad (to the point where I wished I could be put into an induced coma until it went away), I discovered that holding the rash up to water as hot as I could stand for as long as I could stand resulted in some sort of histamine release that felt like the world best itch-scratching, after which it didn't itch at all for a period of time.
Also, it has seemed to me that getting a sunburn on the affected area seems to clear it up; but I'm not sure of this and it's scary to risk compounding your woes.Nov 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm #1663088
@biointegraLocale: Puget Sound
+1 on hot water.
I have had similar success with this, and even better if you follow up with hot air a la hair dryer.
This reduced severity of itching significantly and seemed to help it clear up quicker. This is my go-to method for dealing with it, if the rash appears anywhere after the mandatory immediate aggressive soap and warm water bathing asap after exposure. Usually this results in no or very isolated areas of minor rash. It is easy to brush up against clothes that were exposed while disrobing, which makes it crucial to be very careful about and also laundering clothes carefully and without others.Nov 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm #1663095
then you may need Prednisone. I've had it this bad a few times, but not everyone gets it that bad. Since I started being much more careful (always showering and washing clothes after a hike in potential P.O. territory, and using Tecnu if I've seen or touched poison oak) I haven't had any widespread outbreaks, though even a small area of rash will progress to swollen weepy red blisters for me. When that happens in a small area, I use the strongest cortisone cream I can get my doctor to prescribe.
The Ventana wilderness was a bad place for poison oak the last time I hiked there. Of course, that was 15 years ago; I've refused to set foot in there since then. The fires may have made a difference, but I'm not taking any chances!
As far as there being times of the year when it's dormant, in the winter when the leaves are off and it is just bare sticks you can still get a very bad case of it. You'll need to learn to recognize it and not touch it.
You also may need to work on your Tecnu technique, if you're washing with Tecnu and still getting the rash. After stripping and getting into the shower, I wash my hands first according to the instructions, then rinse them and proceed to do the rest of my body. After getting out of the shower, I do not touch my dirty hiking clothes without washing well afterwards.Nov 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm #1663314
The only truly effective therapy for an established, bad case of toxicodendron dermatitis is oral prednisone. It should be given for 10-14 days which requires a taper off in dosage. Short courses will only result in recurrence.
SFNov 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm #1664306
SO….Just got back from Big Sur and this is the first time I didnt get poison oak. We were extremely careful, washed our clothes in tecnu, bathed in tecnu and cleaned wiped all our gear with alcohol. Seemed to work well. STOKED!Nov 15, 2010 at 10:50 am #1664440
@tothetrailLocale: So. Cal.
The best and cheapest product I've found to remove the oil is Windex, the original formula with Ammonia.
I have also had poison oak so severely that I vowed that after it cleared up, I would pray daily and be thankful that I didn't have it each day. The best treatment for me was the original calamine lotion, the pink stuff.
Ever since I have started using the Windex to "bathe" with after exposure, I haven't even had one small case. And we have canyoneered through some dense poison oak that gear and ropes and everything was dragged through. Everything was doused with Windex after the trip and no one got it.
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