Poison oak prevention and treatment

Sawmillers share thoughts on the best preventions and cures for exposure to poison oak. September 6, 2000

Does anyone have a remedy for poison oak, or a way to prevent getting it on one's legs while scaling logs? I'm ashamed to say it, but this is the best revenge a logger ever had on this sawmiller.

Forum Responses
This may sound silly but trust me, it works for poison ivy:

Get a tea bag and have yourself a cup of tea. Save the bag, place it over the affected area and tie it in place, or take a old elastic sock top and slide it over your arm or leg to hold the tea bag in place. Just let the tea bag dry, and as it does it will pull out the oils. DO NOT place a boiling hot tea bag on your body; let it cool first.

Poison ivy and poison oak are members of the poison sumac family and affect your skin when you contact the plant resins. The resins are present throughout the plant: on the surface of the leaves, in the leaves and in the stems. Direct contact with any portion of the plant, including its sawdust, can cause an outbreak.

The reason not everyone has problems is that the itching, swelling rash is an allergic reaction to the plant resin. The more allergic you are, the worse your outbreak will be.

The key to avoiding problems is to keep the resin off your skin. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. If you do get the resin on your skin, wash it off with soap and water as soon as possible.

If you break out with the itching, swelling, blisters etc., the best treatment is to visit your doctor for the appropriate medication. This may be in the form of oral medication or shot(s).

Learn to identify the plant(s) and try to remember to ask if the logs came from an area with poison oak. The important thing is to keep the resin off of your skin, however you choose to accomplish that.

I've had poison oak so many times I've lost count. I finally found a product that works. Go down to your drug store and buy some stuff called TECNU. There are two types of this lotion; one you use AFTER you've unfortunately broken out in a rash, the other (called Tecnu Armor or something like that) is to shield your body if you'll be out where you might be in contact with poison oak.

It's awesome stuff. The other lotions just try to ease the itching. This stuff actually makes it GO AWAY.

I would thoroughly agree with the last post. The Tecnu products, used as recommended, really work. They dissolve and remove the irritant oils that stimulate the oh-so-annoying symptoms. The oak and ivy cleanser works after you are exposed and right up to "ooze time." The armor helps keep the stuff out of your skin in the first place.

Bailey's Logging Supply used to carry the stuff. That's where I first got it, but a lot of drug stores and I think some Wal-Marts have it now, too.

Here's another idea: Use rubbing alcohol to cleanse suspected areas of contact. Alcohol breaks down the resin given of by the Rue family, to which poison ivy, oak and sumac belong. I've noticed myself that I have a few hours of "grace" before I have to clean up, but everybody reacts differently.

The tea bags contain tannins, which are useful in drying.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
I have run into poison oak a lot while clearing land in the Sierra. Whenever I take a "hit" with skin contact from the plant, I try to respond with a simple preventative treatment within 10-20 minutes. Time is important. My favorite treatment is bicarbonate of soda and water, mixed into a paste, spread on the skin and allowed to dry. It seems to work to prevent the onset of irritation. The alternate is alcohol, which seems less effective for me, but soothes the skin a bit.

Comment from contributor R:
I have had poison oak for three days now and using the alcohol is a good idea to dry it up a little. I also put ice cubes on it and soak it in cool water a few times a day. Putting a cool rag on it and sitting under a fan works well too. If itís on your face itís good to change your pillow case every night. I have found that oatmeal baths from the store help stop the dryness and itching.

Comment from contributor A:
Something that has helped me in cases where I have contacted poison oak and not removed the resin in time and am at the itching, blistering stage with a bad case is to use a flexible shower head. I start with a comfortable temperature water spraying right on the outbreak. Increasing the temperature both creates itching and soothing at the same time and until both stop.

I've found that treating each spot in this way gave me several hours of relief and I think helped stimulate the circulation towards clearing it up and drying it out all at the same time. On one particularly bad case, I did this in the morning, went home at lunch and repeated, which got me through the work day. For lesser cases, where the inflammation is on the arm or wrist, I was able to handle it in the restroom sink periodically through the day.