Please help me conquer this slowly developing poison oak rash
March 7, 2017 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I have poison oak for the first time. My rash is not that bad (small patches, not really weepy, itching is annoying but manageable). The problem is that I am still getting new patches of rash 10 days after it started, and I want it to STOP.

I am pretty sure the rash is poison oak. I was messing around in the underbrush in an area where there is a lot of it, and in retrospect this was really stupid. This is my first time exposure poison oak, so I was not paying attention to it like I should have. I have educated myself on prevention for the future.

It has been a week and a half since I got the first itchy spot, and it is still popping up in new places. All of the patches are small and manageable, but they just keep coming and I want them to STOP. They aren't in any particular areas: all four limbs, hands, torso, face, ears, eyelid. I fear that I may have contaminated a towel with the oil and then spread it all over, because it's not just on areas that were uncovered at the time of exposure. No one else in my family is affected, so I don't think the oil is on any shared household things.

In addition to the new patches of rash, my eyelid puffed up yesterday. My eye has been about 30% obstructed, so not that severe, but still--why did this happen so long after the problem started?

Things I have tried:
- Mean green wash all over the place to remove as much oil as possible from my body (has the same ingredients as Zanfel wash)
- Washing everything I can think of (clothes, towels, bedding, my car, shoes, phone, computer, yoga mat, hairbrush, etc.) either in the laundry or with rubbing alcohol
- Hydrocortisone cream on the rash
- Benadryl cream on the rash (recently stopped this to switch to oral Benadryl)
- Zyrtec + Zantac + Benadryl all at the same time for the last few days. I wouldn't normally combine medicines like this, but this combo was recommended by a doctor when I had an allergic reaction to penicillin so I decided to give it a shot again
- Hot showers. I know this isn't ideal, but it makes it possible for me to stop scratching, which is important

I didn't do any of these things as early as I should have because I didn't realize it was poison oak until a few days after it appeared.

I confess that I also tried putting small amounts of Benadryl and Hydrocortisone creams in the crease of my eyelid because I wanted to make sure the rash that was developing there stayed under control. Could the creams caused the eyelid swelling? (I have stopped doing this).

I haven't gone to the doctor because don't really want to go on steroids. I don't feel bad enough for that. My rash is manageable and isn't very weepy so it seems unlikely it will become infected. The only part that became raw has healed. I don't have a fever, and I am checking regularly. Also all the examples of systemic poison oak on the internet look much worse than what I have. The first itchy spot that appeared is healing nicely and doesn't itch anymore, so at least the individual rashes are improving.

What I want is to figure out why I am still getting new rash and a swollen eyelid 10 days after it started, so that I can make the new rash stop and finally get better. Please help! Could this all be from my bath towel which could have been spreading it for a few days after my initial exposure? Is it normal for areas exposed to a small amount of oil to take a week to become itchy? Is it normal to have swelling appear this long after the rash starts?
posted by insoluble uncertainty to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Could this all be from my bath towel which could have been spreading it for a few days after my initial exposure? Is it normal for areas exposed to a small amount of oil to take a week to become itchy? Is it normal to have swelling appear this long after the rash starts?

Yes, yes, and yes. There could still be oil on your shoes, the door handle, a light switch...sorry. The last time I had poison ivy this bad, the only thing that helped was steroids because the oils can last on objects for up to a year. Also, spots where I had just a little oil contact broke out much, much later than large contact areas, like weeks later.

Sorry. But if you're not feeling crappy, and the rashes aren't getting infected, I think if you do a scorched earth policy cleaning with your entire house (or at least the stuff you know for sure you touched), then maybe you won't get any new outbreaks.
posted by cooker girl at 5:37 PM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


This happened to me. Poison oak caused a rash behind my knees and all over my stomach. It was a hot summer and I was horribly itchy. It lasted for two weeks until I went to the doctor and got a steroid shot. The problem was thereby solved. It was almost instantaneous.

Is there a reason why you're putting yourself through this misery? Faced with the same situation again, I'd go get the shot in a heartbeat.
posted by duvatney at 5:49 PM on March 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


I am mainly worried that I haven't cleaned something that is causing the rash to spread. Steroids won't fix that problem, they will just mask it for a couple of weeks
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 5:58 PM on March 7, 2017


The culprit here is the urushiol oil in the leaves. Unfortunately, ten days is not out of the woods. There's not necessarily some horrible poison thing in your house reinfecting you. Exercise due caution, of course, but probably no need to go nuts. If you're really miserable, look into a corticosteroid shot to suppress your body's response (which manifests in the annoying rash and swelling).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:29 PM on March 7, 2017


I am *very* allergic to urishol and poison ivy is the state plant of Texas. One year, after a really bad exposure, I had to go to the ER and get a steroid shot, because my throat was closing down to where I couldn't breathe.

If you're anything like me, it keeps on showing up until it stops showing up. It goes systemic, does what it wants for as long as it wants to.

Antihistamines are magic. Take some and they'll take a lot of the itch out. For a short while.

But the real deal? Hot water. Shower with water as hot as you can stand it. Put the affected area(s) under that hot stream and it releases and it's almost orgasmic in intensity and no, I am not kidding.

Between hot water showers and antihistamines I can deal with the stuff. It's a real horror show though, and might be that you're as sensitive to it as I am.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:52 PM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Okay, I am a trail runner. I have had PI a LOT and can deal with it pretty well now, so here are my tips.

First, something to understand about PI/PO. I read many years ago in a magazine, and I wish I could find this article again, that urishol, the irritavie compound in PI, is similar to SUPERGLUE in that it creates an almost instant molecular bond to your skin thanks to the addition of water molecules present in our skin and the air.

Because of this, the urishol is pretty much bonded to your skin from within a few moments of exposure. So, you can't wash it off an hour or half a day later. Either you wash it off right away, or you wait for the wash to appear. Some OTC solutions claim to help break down that bond, and I have had good result with Technu, which you can find at Walgreens or any other pharmacy. I use Technu IMMEDIATELY after every run where I think I might be exposed to PI, and use it again in the shower at the end of the day of the run. You can also use Technu to wash towels or clothes you think might have PI oil on them.

Once you have a rash, Technu also makes a wash called Technu EXTREME, which has a physical exfoliant in it. The exfoliant will help "scrape off" (for lack of a better term) the affected skin/rash that is the result of the urishol bond. It helps a lot, as to hot showers, which help encourage your skin to exfoliate.

If it gets terrible, you can always go to the doc and get a cortisone shot. They help a lot better than OTC cortisone creme. Otherwise, try to pat and not scratch, and just give it time.
posted by Brittanie at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


But the real deal? Hot water. Shower with water as hot as you can stand it. Put the affected area(s) under that hot stream and it releases and it's almost orgasmic in intensity and no, I am not kidding.

Seconding every word of this.
posted by jpe at 7:20 PM on March 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yes, Technu is the bomb. Helps a lot.

And use it on the clothes you wore when you were exposed: I got re-exposed months later because I didn't use Technu on the jeans I was wearing for the original exposure.
posted by suelac at 7:43 PM on March 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


This has happened to my husband a couple times in the past few years, with Poison Ivy rather than Oak. The first time he suffered and tried to deal with it using hot water, cortisone cream etc for a week before finally breaking down and going to Urgent Care for meds (cortisone shot). Instant relief. The second time it only took him a day or two to realize he needed real-deal Doctor prescribed care.

I will say, on the second instance they gave him an oral steroid of some kind (maybe prednisone?) and he took it for about 4 days. It cleared up the rash but turned him into a very mean person, which he realized and apologized for and then stopped taking. So yeah the meds worked but be aware of that potential...
posted by Jemstar at 8:19 PM on March 7, 2017


I am mainly worried that I haven't cleaned something that is causing ...

Take the steroids, the odds of anything being gained by living in misery for a couple of weeks are so low, and the reward is so great.
posted by zippy at 9:17 PM on March 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yep, nthing this is normal - it took me about 10 days to get over a poison ivy outbreak, with steroids, and no, I was not reexposed. Go to your doctor. I took a low dose and did not have any side effects.
posted by capricorn at 3:11 AM on March 8, 2017


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