Whether you're into camping or not, undoubtedly you've run across poison ivy. The unmistakable 3 leaves and 3 red 'berries' in the center. But what is it that cases the reaction? Urushiol oil is the sticky resinlike substance that causes the rash. It is this same oil that is present with poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Within fifteen minutes of contact, the urushiol oil will have become chemically bonded to the skin.
The rash that poison ivy creates itself is not contagious and does not spread, but anywhere this oil comes into contact will break out. Urushiol oil is so potent, that it takes only one billionth of a gram to cause a rash. That's one nanogram, and 1/4 of an ounce of urushiol oil is all it takes cause a rash in every person on earth. Urushiol oil penetrates the top layer of skin and binds to cells deep in the epidermis in about 10 minutes. So if you can get it washed off inside a few minutes, the rash won't have time to get started. One other thing to note is that urushiol oil can stay active for up to 5 years, even on dead plants.
Poison ivy is found more often in the east, while poison oak is more common in the west and south. Poison sumac is the most toxic of the three, but the least common. It prefers wet soils like bogs and swamps.
Now then, what to do once it's to late. After all, if you are one of the 15 percent of the 120 million Americans that are allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac, or poison oak, this could be one of the few true emergencies in dermatology. Swelling that usually takes 24 to 48 hours only takes 4 to 12 hours. The eyes can swell shut and blisters start erupting on their skin. One needs to get to the hospital as soon as possible because a shot of corticosteroids will bring down the swelling.
If your poison ivy rash is milder, there are two favorites remedies in everyones kitchen. Baking soda or Oatmeal. Even on the back of some baking soda boxes, they will describe how a warm soda bath will relieve the itching. With the oatmeal, again it needs to be very warm, but you make a sort of plaster to let dry on the affected area, allowing it to pull out the poisons. Vinegar and banana peelings have been suggested also.
One last idea was to wrap your rash with saran wrap after a good dose of cortisone was applied. This is all an attempt to "sweat" out the toxins.
This and other camping resources can be found on my site at "Camping and More"
My son has been in Boy Scouts for 4 years now and he is working on his Star Ranking. I have been adopted as an assistant and have enjoyed just about every camp out they have gone on. I've learned a lot from those little guys, and must say that I look forward to these monthly outings each and every time. Rain or shine, winter or summer.