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Poison Oak!!!
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John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 13:47:52 MST Print View

Saw my folks up in southern Oregon over Christmas, went traipsing around in the woods with not a care in the world, only to discover that poison oak can strike even in the dead of winter, with nary a leaf to be found. Had a bad case of it when I met my girlfriends family for first time over New Years, eventually it went away and I thought I had learned my lesson.

Went back up to Oregon this weekend, made a point of touching nothing while I hiked, except one little twig I picked up and played with. Washed my hands when I got home, woke up today with eyes almost swollen shut, poison oak all over face and neck. Bummer!

Have never had poison oak or ivy prior to these incidents despite growing up hiking in Shenandoah mountains back East, and tons of Western hiking since. Always just noticed it and walked around it.

Freaking out now, thinking I'm super sensitive and screwed for future hikes up there.

So, here's my questions:

1) Anything I can do to prevent this/desensitize? Carrying a gallon of Tecnu doesn't seem very ultralight.

2) Seems like long pants and sleeves is an obvious solution for day hikes. However, on a backpacking trip, I'm gonna be taking them on and off, tying/untying contaminated shoes, etc, how in the world do I keep the stuff off me over the course of 7 days?

3) Any recommendations of good hot weather pants?

Edited by johnbrown2005 on 02/23/2009 13:54:49 MST.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 13:56:26 MST Print View

Unfortunately the body becomes more sensitive to poison oak with each contact. Yes covering up helps but on a back packing trip were you touch your clothes taking them on and off it's hard to keep clean.

My one helpful suggestion is: Go to the doctor now, tell them you are having difficulty sleeping, and get a prednisone prescription. You can almost watch the rash dry up and disappear. I've read that the sleeping bit is one of the symptoms that necessitate a prescription.

Edited by nschmald on 02/23/2009 13:57:34 MST.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 14:05:29 MST Print View

I always wear long pants while hiking, even in summer, just to help avoid such problems. Note that I hike in vegetated forests, not barren deserts.

This is why I'm so thrilled with the Thurofare pants sold on this website. They are so lightweight that I don't feel like I'm wearing pants at all.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Pants for poison oak on 02/23/2009 14:20:39 MST Print View

When backpacking, how do you get pants on/off without contaminating yourself? Same for shoes...

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
funny story about that ... on 02/23/2009 14:30:51 MST Print View

couple years ago i thought i had poison oak on my thigh, but it got worse and worse over several weeks and spread to both thighs

doctors were a little confused & alarmed - determined i had cellulitis (that large of an area is a concern) and began treating accordingly

soon after, as i was getting ready to head out for a walk, noticed that i prepped each shoe's laces by holding the shoe between my thighs while adjusting laces before putting shoe on foot....


and btw - actually it wasn't poison oak but rather STINGING NETTLE oil from my walks along the river's deer trails that was on my shoes

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"Poison Oak!!!" I'm the lucky one on 02/23/2009 14:48:47 MST Print View

I used to suffer horribly from the dreaded oak. Then one year I went on a new years backpacking trip in the San Garbriel maountians. It was unseasonably warm and we spent the three days in nothing but shorts. I dont know how I got it so bad but lets see. Tromping through the bushes all day fishing. Hand to hand combat all night in front of a huge fire, or maybe it was from accidentialy burning oak in the fire. When we got back I grabbed a six pack and jumped in the jaccuzzi. Within days every inch of my body was covered and swollen with blisters. I mean every inch, it was disgusting. I dont remember anything in my life so horrible. About a week after the trip I was working on a movie and the itch was getting to me. I went to the set medic and she freaked and insisted I go straight to the hospital. As an actor you get work where you can take it and I wasnt leaving the set for any reason. After a long discusion I was directed to strip and my entire body was covered in a mystery ointment. I went back to work and eventually healled. I have never had a single blister since, not even after a long costal hike in norhter Ca right through many wet oak fields with my dog. That same night she slept next to me under the bag and nothing. IM FREE. Ali

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Poison Plants! Eek!!!! on 02/23/2009 15:02:20 MST Print View

I try to shy away from the woods in the summer, until the poison ivy withers down a little from the cooling weather. For goodness sakes, carry the extra weight of extra clothing so you don't contaminate the inside of your sleeping bag and whatever else. You can also have matching convertible pants and carry two sets of legs. Better safe than sorry.

Edited by Coldspring on 02/23/2009 15:04:50 MST.

William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
Re: Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 15:32:17 MST Print View

>>I always wear long pants while hiking, even in summer, just to help avoid such problems.<<

Long pants may help, but if you get the oil (urushiol) on your clothing, shoes, laces, gaiters, gloves, etc. you still have a big problem. It is very "durable" and transfers hours or days later to hands/eyes/lips or other sensitive parts. Contaminated clothing can transfer the oil to tents, sleeping bags, etc. Clothing can be laundered, but that's not an automatic or easy option when you are wearing your clothing when backpacking.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
make peace` on 02/23/2009 16:05:26 MST Print View

Make peace with the plant. Its a protector of the forest and teaches us to be mindful when out there. When little I was hospatalized a couple times with it when large supturating wounds appeared all over my back, i uesed the steriods and it went away. I kept getting it from about 8-20, two to three times a year pretty bad. I stopped treating it about 3 years ago and I slowly improved my relationship with the plant from fear and hatred to respect and admiration. I just had it last week, its cleared up the last couple days. I just scratch now and wash with soap and water, I only get it when Ive been tromping off trail or not being mindful when out in the wild. Its the price you pay, for me my sensitivity has waned.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Pants for poison oak on 02/23/2009 20:59:43 MST Print View

The problem with poison oak contaminated clothing is that it must be cleaned thoroughly before wearing again. This is not really possible on multi-day hikes. Also, if day hiking you don't want to have contaminated clothing touch your car seats, or you'll reinfect yourself. If I think I've gotten PO on my clothing I remove them, turning them inside out, before getting into the car. This means I always carry pants and a shirt in the trunk.

My method of avoiding infection is to be aware of the presence of the plant and walk without touching trail-side foliage. This may result in some rather ballet-like moves (bobbing and weaving) as I hike along, but by exercising care I seldom get it.

I've grown quite sensitive to the nasty stuff, and curse the FDA for banning the manufacture of Ivyol. That was a tincture of poison oak/ivy which was available until about twenty years ago. In the 60's I would buy a case of the stuff and provide it free to all my surveyors.

Nowadays Technu is about the best stuff I've found. There is a product called Zanfel, which is just another scrub. It is effective but very expensive. A cheap alternative to Technu is Lava Soap. I have carried a bar with me and used it freely. It not only cleans the skin but satisfies the need to scratch the itch.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 21:11:35 MST Print View

Just reading this thread has made me ITCH. Scratch, scratch, scratch...

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 21:14:54 MST Print View

Sounds to me like your best defense would be to learn what poison oak looks like in all stages of its growth and dormancy. Then take care not to rub against it. I've watched other people hike and I'm amazed how careless so many people are when they walk. Some will even mindlessly grab plants as they walk by. Don't do that!

If you do brush your legs against poison oak, when you take off your pants, scrunch them straight down to your ankles and step out of them without touching the outside. Sleep wearing something else.

If you get it on your skin, wash your skin off with water immediately, either from a creek or your water bottle. That will go a long way toward preventing the rash. When you get home, put your clothes in the wash BEFORE you take a shower.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/23/2009 21:23:12 MST Print View

Give me Australia's sharks and crocs any day. At least the plants here don't attack you (although we do have ticks which fall out of trees and burrow into your head).

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Poison Oak!!! on 02/25/2009 00:54:00 MST Print View

To sum up: on a multi-day trip, you're screwed if you touch it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/25/2009 02:28:30 MST Print View

> although we do have ticks which fall out of trees and burrow into your head

Not to mention the drop bears, which jump out of trees onto your head ...


scri bbles
(scribbles) - F

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Re: Re: Re: Poison Oak!!! on 02/27/2009 12:42:25 MST Print View

I've heard good things about Ivy Block at

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Poison Oak!! on 03/22/2009 14:39:49 MDT Print View

I am hyper allergic to the stuff.

Ivyblock, Ivycleanse and washing up is about all you can do. If the oil gets on you skin or under the block and stays there you are still screwed.

I hunt and fish and ramble around a lot in some deep woods and creeks and where I go its loaded with poison ivy (crawling on trees etc) poison sumac, and poison oak.
There are certain places it grows. It likes a certain type of light and soil so learn that. For some reason it does not like to grow around Pine trees.

The only solution is to stay away from it and shower in a harsh oil cutting soap, like dishwashing soap, octagon or a lye based soap every night and to wash you cloths.

I have found that I can basically touch it, get in it or whatever, and as long as I take a good shower and wash my cloths I will usually be okay.

Not going to happen on a hiking trip though so the best thing is to learn what it looks like and stay away. I now can spot it from 50 yards, but it is sometimes easy to miss.

I also found that if you think you might have gotten it, clean up and sleep in a t shirt so you dont spread it to your chest, but if you get it on the inside of your sleeping bag your screwed anyway until that is washed and with a down bag you definately do not want to use an oil cutting soap.

Probably a good reason to use a silk or other fast drying liner.

I used to get it really bad when I was a kid, and I went through a series of treatments with some sort of a green gel goo injected with a huge freekin needleover a years period maybe every 2 months.

I did not get the itch for 3-4 years after.

I recently inquired about it, to a dermatologist and nobody had ever heard of it.

All I can say is you have to wash your hands and everything else a lot with strong soap and for gods sake, wash your hands before you pee, not after. I did that once too. Disasterous results.

Looking back lately at the times I have gotten it, I would say 90% of the time it came from my boots or putting my hand on a tree with a vine with a poison ivy vine with no leaves, then touching my face or some other part. When hunting deer I have gotten it numous time from loading a deer into a truck, IE grabbing the legs. I have probably gotten it 5-10 times like that.

If you are in poison oak/ivy plant country, treat your shoes, bottom of your pants and hands as if they are contaminated all the time you will do okay.

Take off your shoes, if you think your pants have been in contact take them off, and anything else that has been in contact, clean your hands and face and anything else contaminated and put on ivy block.

IE dont touch your face etc before you wash your hands, and scrub everything

They also make a ivy cleanse towelette you can wipe down with.

Its a real PIA but you have to change the way you do everyday things, but it seems to work for me.
Gloves seems to help too. In the summer I wear a pair of super thin gloves when I am in the woods.

I have managed to avoid poison oak while hiking all these years, but I am very poison oak paranoid, because I know it would be a major disaster for me.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Poison Oak!!! on 03/22/2009 21:22:30 MDT Print View

> "Not to mention the drop bears, which jump out of trees onto your head ...".

WARNING: Drop bears are NOT cuddly koalas. They will crush your skull and tear you limb from limb before feasting on you. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Edited by ben2world on 03/22/2009 21:24:06 MDT.