Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poison Oak & the Central Coast

When homeschoolers from all over the state came to the Central Coast last week for a campout, a few headed home withe gift that keeps on giving. No, I'm not talking about Limes Disease. It's the Central Coast favorite - POISON OAK! (EW!) I thought I'd share here the information I posted on the group's e-mail group (in response to parents' requests for help).

Any time you camp on our beautiful Central Coast you have to plan on poison oak. (That's why my husband no longer camps and seldom hikes with us here.)

So, we've learned a lot about it.

For most of us, the oil from the leaves gets on our hands or legs or shorts or shoe laces, then we unwittingly spread it on other parts of our body as we shoo away flies, push our hair out of our eyes, scratch an everyday itch, wrestle, whathaveyou. (I've had it on my hip, below my pantyline, after contacting my poison-oak-oiled forearm while...er...in the restroom. Bummer!)

After you've been exposed to it, using a GREASE cutting soap and COLD water can help cut a lot of the oil off your skin. I've had great luck with this. They also sell a product (Tecnu
) that cuts it, but it's very strong and too harsh for me. I go with the dish soap. If it'll cut grease, it'll cut poison oak oil.

Hydrocortisone works for the itch for some, calamine Spray
or Lotion does a fine (if not messy) job drying it up. I'm sure there are more homeopathic cures
, but I have had poison oak so rarely I haven't had a chance to try them out. Mr. B gets it so often, and so badly, he takes the shortcut to the strong stuff...unwilling to take the time to risk anything that MIGHT now (or might) work.

I also found the HOT water thing to be VERY soothing when I had my last bad bout (wrist to pit after spending a day rubbing a dog...I'd done it for YEARS and never got the itch, so I didn't take any precautions...oops!). BUT THE HOT WATER THING ONLY WORKS AFTER YOU"VE
REMOVED THE OIL! If you use hot water to wash off the oil, your pores open and the oil spreads right into them.

Once I'm clean, dried and the itch sets in, I just put that body part under RUNNING water (so if there's any risidual oil it will run OFF and not soak the remaining good skin) as HOT as I can stand it. Does this waste water? You bet. Do I care at this point. Nope! (Sorry)

There are several sites on the web that might prove helpful. I thought this one was particularly entertaining (and informative for those who've never had it).


  1. Try Tecnu Extreme. It removes the oil and stops the itch.You may like this cleanser better than the original Tecnu. www.tecnuextreme.com

  2. If Tecnu is too harsh, you may want to try Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Wash. Zanfel is the only product shown to remove the plants' toxin, ANYTIME after outbreak of the rash. Zanfel provides relief from itching in 30 Seconds and puts the body in a position to begin the healing process. Zanfel is a soap based product that has no known side effects and is safe for children. You can find Zanfel in the First Aid section of your local pharmacy.

  3. Okay, in case you weren't aware of the common term for near scalding water on poison oak... Oakasm. It does have that nearly knee buckling incapacitating action. Many a time I've almost blistered my arms and legs, and back, and feet, and face, and in between my fingers, and in between my toes, and behind my ears, and behind my knees, and, well you get the point. Another favorite of mine is placing my well blistered (from the oak, not the water) arms on a nice hot hood of a black truck on a sunny day. Yeah, Baby. That rocks!

    Oh yeah, surfing (must be the salt water thing) has helped dry it out for me, but I usually just get to scratching all of the blisters apart. Straight bleach has been successful in the past, yet a little strong on the skin. Obviously not available to one as delicate as you. Never heard of anyone who couldn't use Tecnu.



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