My question is, how can you be tromping through the stuff all day and not yourself suffer from the effects? Poison oak is one of the most insidious plants out there. Its resins literally bind to human protein, causing a vicious allergic reaction and weeping rash that can completely debilitate some people. Treatments are mediocre at bestcortisone creams seem to helpand there are also skin creams that repel the urushiol. They're called Ivy Block and StokoGard Outdoor Cream. Both form a barrier over your skin that the urushiol can't penetrate.
How to clean your clothing and boots? Ordinary soap won't do much goodthe urushiol is chemically a little like pine pitch, so soap just bounces off. Still, hot water, a little extra laundry detergent, and two washes should do a pretty good job on clothing. On boots and other items solvents work best, with ordinary rubbing alcohol a good candidate.
Obviously, your best policy is avoidance. You know what the stuff looks like by now. It tends to grow along oak and other tree trunks, or in thickets of chaparral. So, keep bushwhacking to a minimum and don't use ivy-covered tree trunks as a headrest during a break.
Poison oak is no joke. Hundreds of California firefighters get covered with the stuff each year, and are forced to leave work for days until they recover.
Support Outside Online
Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.