Don E. Robinson, M.D. (WA4YYM@AOL.COM)
Tue, 13 Jun 1995 00:49:51 -0400
This is an interesting and frequent problem in the backcountry.
According to Wilderness Medicine, an excellent textbook edited by Paul
Auerbach M.D., about 10-15% of people are exquisitely sensitive to urushiol
the culprit chemical in these plants. Another 10-15% seem to be immune to
the ravages of this plant dermatitis. The rest of us fall somewhere in
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak, although they share the same offending
chemical are different species. Poison Ivy is Toxicodendron radicans.
Poison Oak is Toxicodendron diversiloba. Poison Sumac is Toxicodendron
Once contaminated with the oil an average person has 1-4 hours to wash it
off if the dermatitis is to be prevented. Even plain water will inactivate
urushiol. Soap would be better. Very sensitive individuals are probably
doomed to a reaction within minutes of contact. The sooner one gets
treatment with cortisone compounds orally or by injection, the more effective
is the treatment. Topical creams are much less effective.
There is a reference to hyposensitization by oral ingestion of urushiol
in gradually increasing amounts in olive oil, but it is warned that this
should be done only with the counsel and direction of a dermatologist or
allergist skilled in the procedure.
ASM Troop 10
Area Council (TN-GA)
Cleveland, TN-Near the Ocoee River, site of the '96 Olympics Whitewater
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City