Common Misconceptions About Treating Poison Ivy or Oak Rash

By Administrator  |  Thursday, August 02, 2012  |  , , , , ,  |  7 comments

computer guyIf you ever post a request on a social network or forum for help with a poison ivy or oak rash, you will get a whole lot of advice. Unfortunately, when it comes to poison ivy and oak there are many misconceptions about what you should do to treat the rash so "helpful advice" can become confusing. And these misconceptions about how to deal with a poison ivy or oak rash can cause more problems for you.

Here are a few that we come across quite often:

  • Use household bleach on your skin - Bleach can cause chemical burns, irritation and swelling when exposed to skin. It can also destroy melanin (pigment) in the body. Why would you want to put this on your already irritated skin? Stick to a cleanser designed to remove urushiol (the rash causing oil) like Tecnu.
  • Wash with very hot water - Some people will tell you to use very hot water when washing your poison ivy or oak rash because it feels good. The problem with using hot water is that it opens up the pores in your skin creating a pathway for urushiol to enter. Using cool water will keep the pores closed.
  • Not understanding why the rash is spreading - Most people think that the continuing spread of their rash is from the initial contact with the plant. However if you have a rash that is continuing to spread for weeks, you are coming in contact with the plant oil again. Look for sources of contact with the urushiol such as shoes, tools, or a pet that may have come in contact with the plant and are carrying the oil. Urushiol can stay potent on objects for years.
  • Breaking blisters - The blisters that form during a poison ivy or oak rash outbreak are part of your body's allergic response and do not contain the rash-causing oil. Blisters do not cause the rash to spread. The blisters should not be broken on purpose as it creates a potential point of entry for bacteria that could result in a skin infection. Keep blistered skin loosely covered with a bandage to help protect it.

What you do need to know is that there are two important steps that should be taken when treating a poison ivy or oak rash.

First, you need to remove the source of the rash from your skin. This is an oily substance found in all parts of the plant including leaves, stems, and roots called urushiol (pronounced ooh-roo-she-all). Because urushiol is an oil, traditional soap and water is not always enough to remove it and can sometimes result in spreading the oil around. A cleanser designed to break through the oil, such as Tecnu Original or Tecnu Extreme, will be more effective at removing urushiol from your skin.

Second, you need to treat the symptoms of the rash. The itching and burning sensation can be quite painful for some people, and some rashes can blister and ooze quite badly. Over-the-counter medications such as Calagel or Tecnu Rash Relief Spray can help alleviate the symptoms. If you have a very intense rash and the OTC medications are not enough for you, be sure to consult a doctor.

So remember the two steps to treating poison ivy and oak rash are remove the oil and treat the symptoms. If you need advice about what products to use, consult a medical professional such as a pharmacist, nurse or doctor.

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7 comments for “Common Misconceptions About Treating Poison Ivy or Oak Rash”

  1. Posted 8/7/2012 at 8:42:02 AM
    Gravatar of Elaine H Schachter

    the information is excellent and written in a way that anyone can understand. thanks

  2. Posted 8/7/2012 at 8:55:43 AM
    Gravatar of Margaret

    As ever thanks for the information. I got a really bad case of poison oak that needed medical attention about 2 years ago. Now I am ever so careful if I am getting close to any source of contact (live on 4 acres with plenty of poison oak in the thicket) and use TECHNU products if I suspect contact. I am curious, is poison oak reaction same as bee sting? If I inadvertantly come in contact will I respond as that huge outbreak years ago or could it be possible it was just such a massive dose of oil (clearing dead brush pile I am sure). Thanks for the help and info!

  3. Posted 8/13/2012 at 1:03:39 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    We can't predict what your reaction would be the next time you are in contact with the plant. People react differently depending on their body's immune system at that moment when coming in contact with urushiol.

  4. Posted 9/1/2012 at 11:17:02 AM
    Gravatar of Lori

    I am so thrilled that I came across the Calagel/Tecnu combo pack at Walmart yesterday! I had been using Ivarest as I thought I graduated from Caladryl...I got poison all over the inside of my arms last Saturday and have been MISERABLE! I put Calagel on as soon as I got home and got immediate relief! I can't thank you enough for this wonderful product! It started to dry up immediately and I actually was able to sleep through the night last night.

  5. Posted 9/9/2012 at 1:42:45 PM
    Gravatar of Danny

    The best thing that I have had success with is to take a long cool/cold shower with tecnu, tecnu extreme or zanphel. After that wash everything that you were wearing with mild soap and water and don't forget your boots. If your going to scrub your boots down try to wear rubber gloves if possible. Take as many showers as you can to ensure your getting all the oil off and also your drying out your skin which for me speeds up the whole poison oak process. After I take a few cool showers I crank up the heat in the shower which gives me about 3-4 hours of relief. I am exposed to poison oak on a regular basis as a Hotshot (Wildland Firefighter), in just about every beautiful county in the U.S. that sits below the 5000' level. On average I get between 1-2 prednisone shots a year and always have my prescription prednisone tablets on me and after 10 years as a Hotshot the best advise I can share is to know what it looks like in all it's different forms, stay out of it if possible, don't inhale smoke off of burning poison oak and wash everything you come in contact with as much as you can.

  6. Posted 10/14/2012 at 12:17:21 PM
    Gravatar of TDP

    I agree with the reasoning in "no hot water" - when cleaning the area of exposure the first and second time. After a couple of cool water & soap washes and 24-48 hours - the exposure is set and the excess oils will have likely been washed away (assuming no continuing indirect exposure). From that exposure +48hr point forward... Treating the body's continuing histamine reaction is generally the focus of the victims efforts.

    The hot water therapy used in that "post-cleanup +48hrs" context is very useful... It seems to trigger the "mass consumption", or "use up" all the itch inducing potential of the histamines in the affected locations that are treated with the hot water... and all at once. It is an intense thing... the hot water initially causes an insane amount of itching in the heated areas... But it subsides within a few seconds to minutes, and is usually followed by hours of comfort... during which the body slowly rebuilds the histamine levels. It even reduces the hard raised stiffness of the exposure sites... For several hours.

  7. Posted 8/14/2013 at 5:20:50 AM
    Gravatar of Barry

    Got Poison Ivy over the weekend weeding on both arms. Tried several products before and nothing works like Calagel to relieve itchiness for 6-8 hours. Finally got a good sleep last night! Plus doesn't drip or stain clothes. Great product. Wish I used the tecnu right away but I'll know next time. It's great to use a product that actually does what it claims to do. Thanks for creating and marketing such a great product!

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