Advertisement

Poison Oak/Ivy "immunity"

topic posted Tue, June 8, 2004 - 2:01 AM by  Ass^trid
Share/Save/Bookmark
I was that person, too, for many years. When I was two, my father waded into Poison Ivy in Texas to rescue me...he got a body full of blisters, and I got nothing. All my lfe among poison ivy there, I got nothing, despite bounding through the woods like the tomboy I was.

When I moved to San Francisco, the "bad boy" is Poison Oak. I waded through it the entire way down Twin Peaks, once. scratches all over my body...nothing. cross-country hikes up and down the coast without even looking. Lucky woman...immune!

So I thought. So I never worried. at 29, I was backpacking in Oregon in P.O. country. and either because I might have used some branches in my fire, or because I got some deep cuts on my legs after a woodland slide (still have the scars 25 years later), which got PO into my blood...

For the first time in my life I itched and got blisters. But because I did not suspect the real thing...I wore the same clothes, and scratched (spreading the plant juice). And ever since, I have been susceptible. 3 more times.

Caveat for those who think they have good genes and/or are immune...If you DO itch...suspect it and take care!

I wore my backpacking clothes for 5 days...and I had it everywhere...because I thought I was resistant.

Hubris?
Advertisement
  • I've also heard that people who are "immune" can become suseptable if they are exposed often enough (which is sounds like you were!). Basically if you are immune count your blessings and avoid it like the rest of us :)

    -Kathe
    • yes- this makes great sense-
      • I really don't know the scientific basis, but over-whelming the body's responses sounds reasonable.

        painful, yes. Frustrating -- no. I actually thought it was interesting and entertaining, despite the blisters. Humbling experiences are always such.

        note to self: find out the science.
        • Unsu...
           
          there wasn't a day that went by, as a lil'dude, when i wasn't covered head to toe in calamine lotion. i even tried to make an edable salad when i was 6ish that wan mostly poison ivy and maybe some dandilions. anyway... since then and to this day i avoid anything that even remotely looks 3 leaf'ish.

          however my dog dives through just about everything and anything but i've never gotten any of the oils' effects on my skin, so i often wonder as to wheither or not i am immune or have built up a tollerance to it from being so effected by it as a child... however i still stay way away from it and take all the precautions.
          ;)
    • Kathe, you're right. Sometimes it takes folks a while to develop a sensitivity to poison oak. Best not to test it!

      Here's a question: I've heard that if you do get into poison oak, you should rub dust on the exposed area to remove the oils before you have a reaction. Is this true?
      • Unsu...
         
        i haven't heard the dust bit, but i've heard of milk, yogurt, and even cheese spread. wierd huh? similar things that you would drink or use on your skin to get rid of the effects of hot chillis.
        However, i've got a bar of poison ivy soap that is beezwax and red clay that i use if i feel even the slightest bit itchy and so far so good!

        dust sounds interesting though...
      • I'm trying to think how dust would help and it's not making much sence to me... anyone else?

        The remidie I've always heard for poison ivy was jewelweed and, of course, oatmeal (being from Maine I've never had to deal with poison oak but I hear it's similar... don't encounter it much here in LA either).

        One of the problems with treating an outbreak is that it's both a skin reaction to the oil and a systemic allergic reaction, which is why you can develope a rash where no oil has been. Benadryl is always what I've hard of as the ultimate cure... anyone know of a medicinal plant that's an antihistamine?
        • zen
          zen
          offline 4
          I've always used the Jewelweed connection (The Aloe of the temperate climes) even so far as to coat myself before going into an area where i 'might' have contact. Works GREAT!
          • The deal with poison oak is that the remedy usually grows right beside it. Its a little vine with a white flower.. but am not sure what its called. Poison ivy is the same. The same plant usually grows right around in the same area.

            Plantain poultises usually work for removing the toxins of poison oak/ivy. It is designed to remove poisons and is also safe to take internally.

            In Montana, we don't have to deal with either one, so its been a long time since I've even been around it. But I do know that in Ca. up in the foot hills, there is a bunch of it..
            • Unsu...
               
              i remember being shown that plant. it's the thickness of 2 pencils and kind of translucent green. when snapped in half it will ooze something similar to aloe.
              :) right on!
              i love cool memories.

              i don't think i would be 100% sure if i saw it again though.
              • zen
                zen
                offline 4
                Jewelweed is cool just by itself. Not only being just a general sting/itch cream (best juice is from low on that translucent stem) but it's an impatient "touch-me-not." The seed pods are inch-longish green sticks that burst on touching - shooting the seeds a yard or two away. Kids love being surprised by its spray. If it's not yet in seed, note the wonderful spurred yellow/orange flower that sort of hangs on the end of stem like a lantern. It only takes once or twice of watching a bumblebee squeeze into it and back out to remember it's shape!

                Another distinguishing characteristic is a plucked leaf when put underwater (nearby stream) reflects light like tin foil in the sun due to it's microscopic hairyness. Then bring the leaf out of the water and it's almost completely dry.

                If those weren't reasons enough to call it "Jewelweed," i've discovered another - the mature seeds have a dark coat on them that when removed reveal the most wonderful turquoise color to the seed!

                Now try not being able to identify it! :)
        • Antihistamine effect: try nettles in a tea or tincture to reduce burning, itching, inflammation, allergy etc.

          • the BEST cure -- I give this to all my workers when they get poison oak (luckily I appear to have been immune the last 35 years and counting) --

            AZTEC SECRET clay --- make sure you use soap and water to wash the affected area well first, then make up a paste with the clay and apple cider vinegar (nice acidy pH like your skin) -- slather it on and let it absorb as much of the (invisible) oils from the poison oak -- works great! works on weping poison oak rash too since it does not absorb into the skin.

            poo on those chemical fixes -- tho I think that TECH-NU soap kicks ass too for the initial wash.

            side note - one of my tree guys/pals eats the leaves to boost his immunity! crazy freak!
            • Euell Gibbons suggests eating it too. I've actually talked to someone about eating poison ivy who knew people who do it and you're supposed to eat enough until you get "indicator bumps" on your corn hole. yeah, I'll take the rash over the indicator bumps. One thing that's worked for me is to use gojo hand cleaner if I think I'm going to get poison ivy.

              I like jewel weed too. planted a bunch in the yard this year.
            • *bumped for Ahlaya*

              unfortunately my pal died, so I can't ask him the details of eating the leaves for immunity - but he swore by it.

              and side note I got PO for the first time in my life - ironically while I was out of the woods and in Manhattan for a trip last year - PO in the city, go figure! hmm so much for immunity. I shoulda shut the hell up HA!
              • hi again. just a few notes on the type of allergic reaction PO and its allies cause; it's a Type 3 hapten reaction, somewhat delayed, the same type as you get from the tuberculin skin test for TB. and yes, you an get sensitized voer time and no one gets it the first time, but it;sno the same as the simple IgA and IgM reactions that people ahve o, say, pollens that cuase respiratory hayfever type stuff.

                some people will porbably never become sensitized, and others may eitehr desinsiize over time or become more sensitive. they are two differnt processes. but NO antibody except for blood type ABO and Rh0 is present before exposure to the antigen.

                hope this helps.

                a good undergrad microbiology or physiology textbook can explain this in more detail. i have some on the shelf and will quote more if you like.

                once you have the rash, it'll keep going because of the types of response long after the actual allergen is removed.
  • if it wasn't for poison ivy many a mountain side would become a mudslide.

    i have heard that what sets off a reaction in people that are supposedly immune is really the number of exposures. if you have enough exposures to the stuff eventually you are going to have a reaction. for years i have walked through the stuff, burned it and given it close up dirty looks with no ill effects. then this past summer i took a group of boys on a camping trip in an area that had it growing all around but none on the trails we hiked yet i broke out from head to toe in blisters. i could have taken a bath in calamine lotion and it would not have been enough to relieve the itching!
    • Thanks chilli. a new dog in my life that I am a bit attached to lovin' up and he has already proved he is bad ass by running straight into it and eating it. I personally will still avoid it in the woods...but hoping to build an immunity so I can safely snuggle the cutie without fear of the oak! I think I am aiming for the honey infusion...and then takin' it real slow....those indicator bumps don't sound fun! Also think I may go on a hike in search of monkeyflower as I saw in another post...and heck why not try the mango skin too. Oh for the love of animals!
      • hi, I posted this in another thread but since you are having the pet-borne poison oak problem, I'll repeat the advice i learned some 25 years ago from he vet's column in the Chronicle: keep some potatoes around, even if they get green and wrinkly or sprouty. when you have been petting a critter who's been running through the bush, rub the cut raw potato on your skin immediately, including all over your hands, and wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water and rinse even more thoroughly.

        monkeyflower, jewelweed, and mugwort are all handy if you are out in the brush yourself, but a potato is pretty easy to keep on hand at home or in you backpack almost anywhere. it works too; I've used it successfully. the eating it for desensitization is a tricky proposition, good fr some doesn;t work for others . since it;s an immunological response, "immunity" is a bit of a misnomer.
  • Dr. Christopher's school taught that nearby poison oak/ivy there is usually one of the "antidotes" which is Yarrow, Plantain or Mullein. I have heard Jewelweed but that doesn't grow around me and I am not familiar with it. I would drink the teas at this point, and Nettle I am sure will also help internally. I realize this is an old post but thought I would add this!
  • Unsu...
     
    Sensitization is a real thing. You can go forever and not react to things and then one day it all changes.

    • I have to think this has something to do with our cells changing over...I mean we literally turn them over and become a new person.
      Blessings
      Linda
      • Unsu...
         
        Some thing in the mitochondria possibly the transcriptase RNA or the CoDNA must respond to something in the allergen's chemistry at the molecular level maybe a binder site in the allergen has an affinity with a binder site in the RNA or CDNA before it becomes DNA and effects a lousy little change or two in one of the base pairs. And POOF you are allergic.

        I suppose that's better than POOF you are a puddle of greazy liquid and goo.
        Which wouldn't take all that much to accomplish. A little lisine here a little enzyme there and it'd be ukly.
  • Unsu...
     
    Working in swamps for a living, I am old friends with poison ivy, poison wood, poison sumac...

    Most people do not react the first time they are exposed. After a few exposures, however, they will.

    The oils from the plants are the key. Get them off within 30 minutes and you may avoid the allergic reaction. You can do this with soap and water. Of course, before modern soap and water, indigenous peoples all over used substitutes. Many plants like yucca have saponin - the "glycocides" which are used to make soap. When you look at folk cures, most involve getting the oil off, and many involve using some local plant with saponin.
    • Unsu...
       
      Exactly - usually there is some plant with natural soapy saponin, the natives know of it, and identify these plants as 'antidotes'.

      Example - Leaves of the gumbo-limbo tree are reported to be an antidote to poison wood. Both are common in the Everglades. Gumbo-limbo leaves are high in saponin.

      Where there are no plants with saponin, there is usually some other way of removing oil from the skin.

Recent topics in "Edible and medicinal plants of the wild"