ANSWER

Dear Debbie,

First, Identify It, And Maybe Even Get Rid Of It!

The first thing you want to do is to get acquainted with the type of plants in your area that cause contact dermatitis. You can look all of them up on the Internet, and then print pictures of them and post them on the refrigerator for everyone in the house to see what they look like. If you go looking where you were lying around, you will probably find them. DON’T TOUCH THEM, just see where they are. And DON’T BURN THEM as the smoke can make you really sick too.

In California where I have a lot of Poison Oak at my ranch, I spray a mixture of clove oil, lemon juice and vinegar on it in the spring, and it is dead in a few days. Clove Oil burns plants and kills them, and this keeps the poison oak down to a minimum the rest of the year, and also keeps the number of people getting hurt by it to a minimum too. There are many recipes on the Internet.

Here are a few pictures of poisonous plants…

Poison Oak

Poison Sumac

Next, What To Do Once You Are Contaminated!

You are not alone! OVER 50 MILLION PEOPLE, or MORE, in the United States get some type of plant dermatitis every year.

The thing about Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and other plant caused contact dermatitis, is that once you have got it, its usually too late! You have already been infected.

It is possible to minimize the contamination, by washing with soap and water, even scrubbing with a soapy brush, IMMEDIATELY after you have been in the woods and especially if you think you have been contaminated. Some experts suggest using NO SOAP and cold water alone which some people think helps to disperse the infectious oil from these plants better. I have done both cold water, cold water and soap, and hot water and soap, and even done alcohol like isopropyl alcohol or in a pinch, a bottle of whiskey. I prefer the cold water with mild soap. The key is using LOTS of water to make sure that you get the contaminated oils dispersed enough, diluted enough and removed enough.

The contaminant from all of these plants is an oil called Urushiol. It is quite sticky and gets on your skin when you come in contact with the plant, or come in contact with material like blankets, sleeping bags, towels that have come in contact with the plant recently. I have even got it from petting my dogs after they run through it. By the way, this is the ONLY TIME you can transfer it to another person, when this oil is on your skin BEFORE you wash it off.

As far as washing it off, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! 50% of the Urushiol Oil is absorbed by your skin within about 10 minutes, so this is why you have to act immediately after contamination. Onceit penetrates the skin, it is too late, as the soap and water will not remove it.

I use natural soaps like Dr. Bronners and a natural fiber vegetable bristle scrub brush. Make sure you wash all contaminated clothing or blankets too, with a natural detergent. Many people swear by making a scrub of Baking Soda and Vinegar or Lemon Juice, to scrub off the oil and lessen the burning. There are many home remedies. Others swear by Tecnu and other chemical soaps found in camping stores, and many swear by oatmeal packs to make the itch less. The bottom line, is that once you have been contaminated with the oil, it is usually too late. But a good scrubbing will dissolve and wash away any residual oil that has not penetrated your skin, and is still on the surface of your skin, and get rid of it, and keep you from spreading it all over your body, or worse, contaminating others.

Usually, you will first notice itching and even painful stinging within a few hours of contamination. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes while other times it takes a day to discover you have it. So the minute you suspect contamination, get in the shower and SCRUB, SCRUB, SCRUB!

After contamination, most people get a red rash and very itchy, if not burning, red bumps, that in a few days, form blisters, that often weep, ooze, drain or break, forming crusty scabs. NOTE; The liquid from the blisters is NOT contaminated and WILL NOT spread the Urushiol nor cause further contamination nor contaminate others. But breaking the blisters is not advised as it opens the skin and leaves you more susceptible to bacteria and skin infections. The skin eventually becomes raw, scaly and even gets thickened. For most people, the whole event will self resolve itself in a few weeks, whether you do nothing or not, and the skin is usually back to normal in three or four weeks. But many natural treatments can make you feel a lot better, and I will talk about them in a minute.

Here are a few pictures of what the rash looks like…

At first, it is usually red skin, or itchy or burning streaks, or a red rash…

Then, a few days later, it will usually blister…

And then get crusty…

And not to gross you out, but it can be severe (although this is rare)…

Natural Treatments For Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac!

Believe it or not, the best anti-itch medicine is my Deep Tissue Oil or Ointment. The natural Menthol from Peppermint in this formula is a powerful counterirritant and will STOP the itching and burning, which in turn will stop you from scratching the area causing complications. I like to mix 2 drops of my Deep Tissue Oil with 8 drops of my Jojoba and Tea Tree Oil. Then rub it in the area well. This relieves the itching and burning. The Jojoba and Tea Tree Oil is also amazing for your skin and really helps in the last stages of Urushiol Contamination when the skin is dry, cracked and scaly. Some people hesitate to put Deep Tissue Oil on itchy, burning red skin during poison ivy infections. DON’T! It offers great relief!

I also use this Deep Tissue Oil and Jojoba and Tea Tree Oil recipe for mosquito bites if I don’t have any of my Bug Barrier Ointment around. By the way, Bug Barrier contains Menthol for this same reason, to stop the itch of mosquito or other insect bites.

Also, start taking my Echinacea Plus IMMEDIATELY. This will increase your natural immune system response, which will speed up your recovery time. I suggest taking ¼ of a 2-ounce bottle, or about ½-ounce every day for four days. Put the ½-ounce in a water / juice combination, then put it in a sports bottle and sip it throughout the day.

Finally, putting my Anti-Infection Tincture right on broken blisters, will keep them from getting infected, and speed up the drying stage.

More Information Than You Probably Need

Here is a great website for endless information on Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.

STOP Poison Ivy Hysteria

I often found with families that once one person in the family was contaminated, the whole family STARTS ITCHING. Unless your kids were lying with you in the grassy area, or you came in direct contact with them right after you were contaminated, or they came in contact with the contaminated blanket or towel, I sincerely doubt they have nothing more than what I call Poison Ivy Hysteria.

Often once one person gets it, EVERYBODY starts itching. I was once teaching at a retreat in New York not far from your town and I was asked to come to the nurse’s office because there was an epidemic of poison ivy outbreaks. She said 100 people had poison ivy. When I examined these 100 people that afternoon, I only found a few actual cases of poison ivy. The rest had heat rash, mosquito bites, sunburn, hives, and numerous itchy patches, but they did not have poison ivy. They had what I call Poison Ivy Hysteria, which is all your kids have after seeing your red rashes, blisters and itchy, burning skin. So please tell them not to worry, but keep them out of that area of the yard.

Remember, Stay Clear of it, Cold Water Wash IMMEDIATELY, Wash ALL contaminated clothing, Deep Tissue Oil and Jojoba and Tea Tree Oil mixture and Echinacea Plus.

Stop Scratching!

— Dr. Schulze