How Do You Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac
If you spend any time at all out in nature, chances are very good you are going to run into poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac. These green, leafy plants thrive throughout most of the U.S., and virtually all people will have reactions to them if they come into contact with these plants. All three of these plants can cause what it known as contact dermatitis with symptoms that include redness, rashes, and itching. The compound urushiol is what causes this misery, and it is so powerfully toxic that a pinhead amount can affect up to 500 individuals!
It should be noted that over the course of any given year, nearly half of the population of the US will present with symptoms of these plants. You can also find urushiol in other plants as well such as cashew nut trees, mango, and ginkgo trees to name a few.
So, what should you do if you come into contact with these plants while you are out in the wilds? How do you treat poison oak and these other ailments?
The first treatment aid you should do is to wash/flush the area with plenty of water. This should be done as soon as possible before the reaction can take full effect.
The second treatment option you can perform is to use a baking soda paste. Mix about 3 teaspoons of soda with 1 teaspoon of water into a paste and then apply this paste to the area. You can easily carry a small bag of baking soda in your pack and is worth having on hand.
Another item you may want to carry in your pack is witch hazel. This liquid works well on relieving the itching. It will not affect the rash, but it can help with that awful itch until you get back to civilization.
Tea tree oil is another item that can help if you come into contact with these plants. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-inflammatory what can help reduce the rash symptoms as well as reduce swelling and itching.
Most people have heard of aloe vera, and this compound can be found in many over-the-counter products. It can reduce the itching and helps to speed overall recovery for those suffering from poison ivy contact. Aloe vera is also good for treating many types of wounds, making it a good pack item.
We medics in the Army were told over and again that the best cure is prevention. That applies here, too. Take some time to learn what these plants look like, where they grow, and wear protective clothing and boots when you are trampling around in their territory. Stay away from these pesky plants, and you will not have to worry about treating yourself or others for their effects.
Important Note! Never, ever burn these plants. Inhaling the smoke can kill you, and getting the smoke on you and your clothing can literally cover you with urushiol. These dangers are present even if the leaves and vines are dried out. Be safe and never burn these plants.