Poison Oak? Poison Ivy? Get Your Sasquatch On!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(AND QUESTIONS YOU WERE AFRAID TO ASK IN SCHOOL)
What is the difference between poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac?
From the viewpoint of your skin, there is no difference. All contain the resin, urushiol that evokes the rash. Poison oak notoriously is found west of the Rocky mountains, especially in the Northern California and Oregon. Poison ivy is traditionally an ivy lurking on the eastern side of the continental divide. Poison sumac also found sporadically across the eastern seaboard and Great Lakes states.
Why do I break out in areas where the plant could not have possibly touched me?
There could be several reasons for this. The resin from the plant may be stuck on your clothing, gloves, walking stick, gear, etc. Therefore you may be re exposing yourself many times over and over. Another reason is that the thickness of your skin varies from place to place. Skin on palms and soles of feet are very thick compared to the underside of forearms and eyelids. It may take longer for the resin to diffuse through more layers of skin, thus a longer onset of time until the rash starts. This can create the illusion that you are spreading the rash or that the rash is contagious.
Can you smoke poison oak to build up an immunity?
No. I have heard of homeopathic oral dosing but I am unaware of any credible studies supporting this practice. I do not recommend it.
Does poison oak or poison ivy potentially cause harm during pregnancy? No. But it can add to the misery of pregnancy.
What causes the intense itch?
The resin triggers a cascade of events in your skin's immune system. Cells called mast cells and basophils release histamine and other chemicals that cause itching. Other white blood cells called neutrophils and eosinophils migrate to the skin and add to the redness and swelling.
Can Sasquatch Itch Cream be used with other products?
Yes. Sasquatch Itch Cream is formulated to the treat and the cure rash once it begins. Other products that are washes and blocks can still be used. Think of Sasquatch Itch Cream as the "fire extinguisher of poison oak".
What is urushiol?
It is the resin in poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. It is insoluble in water.
Can the fluid in the blisters spread the resin?
No. The fluid is merely a byproduct of the inflammation in the skin. Popping the blisters causes no harm. Some self-professed authorities on poison oak dogmatically preach that breaking the blisters is bad. I disagree. If the pressure of the blister makes you uncomfortable, pop it with a sterilized needle (I like to use rubbing alcohol and a lighter to sterilize around the house).
My doctor prescribed prednisone. Why did my rash come back? You probably received a 5 day tapering dose, which is inadequate to treat most contact dermatitis. I usually prescribe a 14-21 tapering dose of prednisone (aka "cortisone"). A weak 5 day dose sometimes causes a rebound flare that is worse than the original rash.
Why were Native Americans immune to poison oak & poison ivy? There is no evidence that they were. This is an urban myth likely started by sloppy work in the early days of anthropology.
What is the best treatment for poison oak or poison ivy on the genitals? While Sasquatch Itch Cream is safe to use on either the male or female groin and buttocks, I also recommend 5% over-the-counter lidocaine cream. Keep in mind, either product may sting momentarily if the skin is broken down.
Can some poison oak and poison ivy have more than 3 leaves? Yes. Just like a four leaf clover, but without the luck to go along with it. Sometimes poison oak can have up to five leaves. Luckily this is quite rare.
My friend says he takes a homeopathic supplement to "desensitize" him. What is up with this?
I've looked into this quite extensively after hearing similar stories. There is really only anecdotal evidence and poorly designed studies addressing this issue. If anyone knows of reliable substance with some good data behind it, please contact us.
Are "allergy shots" available for poison oak and poison ivy?
No. But it is an excellent question.
Do those expensive poison ivy soaps really work?
Yes. However a published study showed the leading treatment was no more effective than Dial soap.
What are those funky black spots on the leaf? Is that plant blood?
The black spots on the leaf is actually the resin you want to avoid. If you should for some reason decide to cut a stem in cross section, you will note an outer periphery of white resin. It is the same thing, urushiol. It turns black when exposed to oxygen.