Soothing the need to itch!

Treating Poison Oak

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Treating Poison Oak

My kids love to play outdoors in the summer. We live in an area where there are a lot of opportunities to explore. That's the good news. The bad news is that they have a knack for finding poison oak! By the time they get home, the itching is severe, and it's hard to keep them from scratching. I'm afraid that they'll leave scars. Are there any remedies that could help them survive a close encounter with poison oak?

Stop the Itching Immediately

Believe it or not, virgin olive oil stops the itching immediately!

Teach Them to Identify and Avoid Poison Oak

I don't know about remedies, but are they old enough to learn to identify the plant and therefore avoid it? Also, I know it's hot outside, but if there's any way they can wear long pants, socks and gym shoes instead of shorts and sandals, it would help limit the parts of their body that get exposed.

Heat It Up!

The very best treatment for poison oak is to put the hottest water possible on it. It will get intensely itchy for a few seconds and then the itch will completely go away for hours. I learned that from a pharmacist when I had to go to the doctor for poison oak. It works for mosquito bites also.

Treating Poison Oak with Fels-Naptha®

When in contact with poison oak/ivy/sumac, I heard that washing the affected area with Fels-Naptha® soap will help. Fels-Naptha® soap is located in the laundry aisle of any grocery store.

Wash Area Immediately

I suggest the children might tuck individually packaged wipes in their pockets to be used if they notice that they touched poison oak or ivy. Washing the oils from either one off the skin quickly will usually prevent a rash. Even a small damp and soapy rag in a baggie will accomplish the job.

Whenever the kids come in from outdoors, they should also wash their arms, legs, and faces thoroughly just in case they came into contact with a plant without knowing it. The washcloth should not be reused until it has been washed and dried again.
Barbara in CT

Treating Poison Oak with Activated Charcoal

Some people use activated charcoal (not BBQ charcoal as that has petroleum). Activated charcoal is the same kind that's used for food poisoning. I've been told the charcoal works by drawing out the poison. You can buy the charcoal in bulk on the Internet or in capsules at most drug stores. I think Walmart may even carry the capsules. It can be very messy because it's powdered and black, so don't open the capsule in a breeze or when the air conditioner kicks on. Open the capsule in a small dish and add just enough water to make a paste. Put it on the poison area after washing the area with warm water and soap to remove the poison's oil. Then cover the area with gauze that is taped down on all four sides to keep the charcoal against the area. This should also soothe the itch. The next morning wash the poultice off in the bathtub, so as not to splash black water all over the sink area. Check the skin and blisters. If the skin is still red with blisters, make a fresh poultice and cover it again.
J & S

Deal with It Right Away

Have your kids come in several times a day, instead of staying out for hours. The sooner you deal with the poison ivy or poison oak, the better. As soon as your kids come in, remove all of their clothes and place them in a separate bag to be washed in very hot water separately since the urushiol in poison oak, ivy, and sumac stays active. Then wash anywhere you think has been touched on your children's bodies with dishwashing liquid since it's the best soap to break up the oil. Rinse well and do not re-use any rags or towels. Lastly, keep a good supply of calamine lotion and/or witch hazel nearby to treat whatever blisters do arise. If you do this, you will have a less severe reaction.

There are also several treatments that claim to lessen the severity of the reaction if used ahead of time, but they are rather pricey. You're better served to teach your kids to pay attention. Show them a picture of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac and teach them the rhyme "leaves of three, stay from me." It's helped me time and time again.

Jewelweed May Help When Treating Poison Oak

Yes, do a Google search for jewelweed. This is an herbal remedy that I have found to be better than anything over the counter. It comes in a soap, salve, and spray. I use the soap after coming in from "the wild" and the spray on anything itchy. I had a bad case of poison ivy a couple of years ago and this stuff really helped. I keep it on hand at all times just in case! It lasts a long time, so it is really economical. And you can make it yourself if you live in an area where jewelweed grows. Also, teach your kids what the poisonous plants in your area look like. After a bout, they will be willing and eager to learn!

Build Up Immunity

We don't have poison oak in our part of the country, but we have plenty of poison ivy. There's a product available in nutrition stores called "Oral Ivy," which is essentially diluted poison ivy toxin that one ingests in small amounts, a few drops diluted in a glass of water. As a poison ivy rash is an allergic reaction, the tincture introduces the chemical to the body in amounts small enough so that the immune system accepts it and eventually does not react to it as a threat. It is purported to work both as a preventative measure and as a means of shortening the duration of a rash.

I've worked with botanists who are routinely in the field and swear by this product. I don't know if this same product would work for poison oak, but I would imagine there's a similar product available for that. Parents may wish to try it on themselves before giving it to their children, but as long as it's introduced gradually, I can't imagine there would be an adverse reaction.

Short of this, hot water running over the rash dissipates the histamines and provides several hours' relief from the itching!
Terry in Hoschton, GA

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