Dear Troop 787,
It seems that our past winter and spring has created perfect conditions for a large and virulent crop of poison oak to grow on and around the trails that we hike, camp and climb on. Many of us have already suffered this year from a dose of poison oak and the two weeks of itchy blisters which develop up a few days after exposure.
During our hikes leaders work to ensure that everyone is aware of and can recognize poison oak. However we often forget to reinforce measures that should be taken before and after hikes. Because of this we thought it would be appropriate to share some tips that we have gathered while out on the trail:
1. In areas where contact with poison oak is difficult to avoid cover as much exposed skin as possible (long pants, trail gator's, long sleeve shirt), poison oak oils will penetrate clothing so don't rely on this for protection.
2. If you suspect exposure to poison oak thoroughly rinse ALL areas of your body in lots of cool water and then shower twice in warm soapy water as soon as possible after exposure – Wash your ENTIRE body as the oils from the plant are spread easily around your body during the day. DO NOT USE HOT WATER FOR THE FIRST RINSE OFF – THIS WILL HELP BIND THE OILS WITH YOUR SKIN AND MAKE THE EXPOSURE MUCH WORSE.
3. Fully rinse all exposed gear in cold water (dish soap or simple green is a good detergent) and launder all clothing that has been exposed to poison oak to remove the oils and avoid re-exposure.
4. For minor cases over-the-counter products work well, TecNu is one product that is recommended by users in the Troop – check out the Teclabs website (use Google to find their web site), Aveeno oatmeal baths and antihistamine products reduce itching. In bad cases of blistering a trip to the Doctors is required for medication (shots or tablets).
In addition to the above we have posted a few background articles regarding poison oak on the Troop 787 Web Site – they can be located in the Clinic section under general safety.
Also, see the following link to read the article in Wikipedia on Urushiol-induced contact dermatitis:
If you have any questions about poison oak identification or the symptoms of an attack feel free to ask the leaders – many of them have painful experience of poison oak!
Yours in Scouting
Troop 787 High Adventure Team – June 2006