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[l/m 5/2/2007] Oak/Ivy Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ
Section - Treatment for poison ivy outbreaks.

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Part8 - Part9 - Part10 - Part11 - Part12 - Part13 - Part14 - Part15 - Part16 - Part17 - Part18 - Part19 - Part20 - Part21 - Part22 - Part23 - Part24 - Part25 - Part26 - Part27 - Part28 - Single Page )
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Top Document: [l/m 5/2/2007] Oak/Ivy Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ
Previous Document: News Headers
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
From: london@sunSITE.unc.edu (Larry London)
Newsgroups: alt.med.allergy
Date: 21 May 1994 16:25:20 GMT
Keywords: jewelweed, aloe vera, goldenseal, comfrey, plantain leaves
-

Combinations of the following herbal remedies could be tried:

Apply to the lesions, more or less in this order:

1) squeeze juice of fresh jewelweed plants onto lesions
and reserve remains of plants for application as a compress
[this will help reduce itching - the other herbs listed here may 
also help with this]

2) squeeze juice of aloe vera onto lesions and reserve remains of plants 
for compress; promotes healing

3) liberally dust powdered goldenseal on top of the above plant juices
before they dry onto the lesions; this will promote rapid healing

4) take a wooden meat maul and mash leaves and stems of the following
plants:

comfrey
plantain leaves
the remains of the jewelweed and aloe plants juiced in previous procedure

form the resulting masses into a poultice or compress and apply it on top 
of the goldenseal on the lesions

hold poultice in place with a bandage of some sort, if possible.

After four hours or so remove poultice and clean the lesions with water.
-
Repeat this entire procedure every four hours as needed until
itching is reduced and lesions begin to heal.
-

Other remedies:

Cortisone (some OTC, some prescription)

Witch Hazel

-=*=-
london@sunSITE.unc.edu

-
Miscelellaneous treatment information:
-

Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: Greg Smith <greg.n.smith@daytonoh.ncr.com>
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 13:22:01 GMT


Agreed that water is good but please DON"T USE WARM WATER.  Warm water 
will open  the pores in your skin allowing the (poison ivy) oil to get 
in.  Use cold water and soap.

To give you  an idea of how the oil behaves on your skin, consider what 
happened to me.  On military exercise, I got into some poison ivy in an 
ugly way.  I knew I had about 2 hours to do something or I would 
certainly die a horrible itchy death.

I doused my arms in rubbing alcohol to remove the oil from my hands and arms.  
What I forgot to think about was that the disolved oil was running down 
my arms to my elbows where the alcohol was evaporating and redepositing 
now concentrated poison ivy oil.  Within a day I had no skin on my elbows.

No matter what you decide to do to, just remember that the oil has to be 
removed completely or neutralized in place.  There is a product called 
Tecnu that works wonders.  Telephone linemen swear by it.

BTW:  I think calamine lotion is worthless.

 Greg Smith
 AT&T Global Information Solutions
 greg.n.smith@DaytonOH.ncr.com

 Opinions expressed don't necessarily reflect 
 the views or policies of AT&T


Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: rperkins@bnr.ca (Robert M. Perkins)
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 21:13:23 GMT

I have a great case on my lower legs right now, and have been 
very allergic since age 7 (crawled into a poison sumac bush
wearing swimming trunks.  The stuff covered 80% of my body.)

I've tried various steroid creams:
1% hydrocortisone works okay.  .5% is useless.
"Triamcinalone" steroid cream works better- prescription.

"Hydroxine HCL 25mg" - prescription- three times a day cuts the itching
but makes you woozy, esp.if you drink a beer.  Don't know if
it is an antihistamine.  Anyone out there know?

Max strength sinutab has acetaminophen analgesic, pseudoephedrine
(sudafed?) decongestant, and chlorpheniramine maleate antihistamine.
The anithistamine and analgesic make me feel better, though tired.
Any antihistamine should do something to cut the itching.

And, wackiest symptom reliever of all:
Fill the tub w/ cool water.  add 1/2 chlorine bleach, 4 tablespoons salt.
soak for 10 minutes.  seems to help.  Came upon this after having
symptoms relieved after swimming in the ocean or in a swimming pool.

calamine lotion dries it out just a little.  95% useless.

i keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol in my car *usually* in case i
think i've been exposed.

Rob Perkins	Internet rperkins@bnr.ca	
ESN 294-7632    Commercial 919-991-7632	
AIN/SSP Development, Dept 3C38
Bell Northern Research, 35 Davis Drive, RTP, NC  27709	
The opinions I opine are purely mine; BNR doesn't share them.


From: tamada@cheshire.oxy.edu (Michael K. Tamada)
Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: 17 May 1994 13:49:50 -0700

     I react strongly to poison oak.  So strongly that I had to go to a
doctor last time.  I eventually saw an allergist who gave me a copy of
a pamphlet (I don't know who printed it) which advised the following:

     Rinse as soon as possible  (everyone agrees on this).
     Use a LOT of COLD water.  Be aware that this water is simply
spreading the oil around; the idea is to use enough water to have it
spread off you entirely. 
     As someone else mentioned, hot water opens the pores and allows
more oil to get in.
     The pamphlet didn't mention soap one way or the other; possibly it
was referring to people caught in the field who didn't have access to
soap.  
     The doctor said that to use a little water was probably worse than
to do nothing at all, because it would simply spread the oil over more
of your skin.

--Mike Tamada
  Occidental College
  tamada@oxy.edu


Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: hlindaue@harp.aix.calpoly.edu (Hans Fredrick Lindauer)
Subject: Re: poison ivy! (Poison Oak)
Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 00:19:52 GMT

I used to just wait until I was finished hiking, and then use Tecnu, and 
shower off.  [text deleted] prescribe some Prednisone and Atarax, 
[text deleted]
The one good thing about all of this is that I found out (too late, of 
course!) that Tecnu also makes a product called Armor, which you put on 
before exposure, and which prevents the oils from soaking into your 
skin.  I bought two bottles.  The doctor yesterday told me to carry 
alcohol and some paper towels, so that if I get exposed, I can 
immediately wipe off any oils.  

Hans Lindauer
hlindaue@flute




Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: robert.samuelsen@daytonOH.ncr.com (Rob Samuelsen)
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Keywords: jewelweed
Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 14:03:02 GMT


The native americans used Jewelweed.  They would smash it into a pulp and 
spread the pulp over the affected area.  Jewelweed is usually found in moist, 
shaded areas and is identified by it's waxy leaves.  After a rain or heavy 
dew, water beads up on the waxy leaves and looks like jewels.




Rob Samuelsen
AT&T Global Information Solutions (Formerly NCR Corporation)
Platform Solution Services Development
Professional Services Division

Phone......(513)445-1256    FAX.......(513)445-7196
E-mail... Robert.Samuelsen@DaytonOH.NCR.COM

Expressed opinions don't necessarily reflect those of AT&T.


Newsgroups: alt.med.allergy
From: carveb@netcom.com (Robert D Carver)
Subject: Poison Oak/Ivy
Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 15:56:29 GMT

I picked up a product recently that is supposed to alliviate symptoms of 
poison oak, ivy, sumac.  I haven't needed it yet so i can not verify it 
works.  It's called "Easy Ivy".  It's made by Bethrum Reasearch and 
Development and their address is P.O. Box 3436 Galveston, TX  77552.  Has 
anyone out there tried this stuff?
-- 
  carveb@netcom.com
  Bob Carver
  Dallas, TX

From: vikikirk@bronze.coil.com (Viki Kirk)
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Re: Herbal treatment of poison ivy rashes.
Date: 25 May 1994 07:06:28 -0400

I spent a night in a poison ivy patch with ten others who are also 
sensitive to poison ivy. I was on an Outward Bound trip in the NC 
mountains. We had been hiking mountainous terrain until well into the the 
night when we came upon a nice flat camp spot -- unfortunately infested 
with the stuff. Our leaders told us to rub the juice from a fibrous plant 
on our skin -- Jewel Weed. Luckily there was plenty of it. Not one of us 
got a rash from the poison ivy!

Viki



Article 33840 of rec.gardens:
From: nedehn@artsci.wustl.edu (Natasha Elizabeth Dehn)
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Re.Poison Ivy

Regarding reactions and treatment:  Not everyone is lucky enough to get 
off with a rash.  A serious exposure or strong sensitivity will produce 
flu-like symptoms--fever, achyness, etc..  It's possible to be sick as a 
dog for more than a month--believe me, I know!!  I also developed 
additional spontaneous rashes on unexposed portions of my body, weeks 
after the initial outbreak--my immune system had developed a hair-trigger 
sensitivity.  I was told some of this might have been prevented had they 
started oral steroids immediately (another thing to note--not every site 
of exposure will show up at once--and I'm not talking about secondary 
exposure from touching oneself, though I got that too--all over my neck 
and face! But it was more than a week before all the streaks of blisters 
appeared on my legs, which had clearly brushed up against the plant).  
In my case the situation is now clear.  But for all of you 
as-yet-unexposed people out there--should you ever be so unlucky as to 
meet the dreaded plant, be aware that stronger reactions are possible and 
stronger treatment is available.   Don't be shy about going to see your 
doctor--just 'cause the books don't usually mention it doesn't mean you're 
imagining your illness :)

--Natasha




Article 33932 of rec.gardens:
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
From: scd@atria.com (Steve Daukas)
Subject: Re: poison ivy (help!  help!)

I am currently working on killing my bumper crop of PI.  I am using Orthro
Brush-be-gone.  The first application has had dramatic effects!  I'm
expecting to give one more application (I mix the product in a 6oz/24oz
ratio in a small spray bottle and then spray it on the leaves).

You can remove the vines by hand and then use the chemicals on the "stump"
of the vine, but this means rubber gloves et. al. and disposal of the
unwanted vines.

Now, whatever you do, DO NOT burn PI (or anything similar).  Contrary to
other posts, you do not need to be sensitive to PI to have a severe reaction
to the smoke.  Inhaled allergens are usually nothing to worry about and
usually do not cause a reaction, however PI smoke is no longer an allergen by
normal definitions.  It is VERY easy to develop analphalyxis when you breath
this in.  Death can ensue in 10 to 30 minutes if you breath enough of it
and you are very young/old or have a medical history of asthma or allergies.
Also, breathing this in will almost certainly cause you to develop a
hypersensitivity to PI and other similar plants that will stay with you the
rest of your life.

From jriedl@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu  Thu May 25 14:57:11 1995
Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 17:57:58 -0500
From: jriedl@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (Dan Riedl)
Subject: poison ivy 

        I read your page on the WWW and found it to be very helpful.  I am
a boy scout in Mansfield, Ohio and have spent over 200 nights out camping
in the past four years.  I have gotten more cases of poison ivy than I can
count.  I have tried many different remidies and I have a few suggestions
for your page.  The brand-name, topical spray, called Rhuli Spray seems to
stop the itching temporarily to a degree.
        I have found a natural remedy that works even better.  I am not
sure how proficient the plant is in other parts of the country but jewel
weed is definately a jewel when it comes to stopping the itch of poison
ivy, or even stinging nettles, in the woods.  It is found in abundance in
the mid-west and can easily be indetified by it's large, fragile, light
green stalks, that are very moist inside when crushed, and it's small
leaves that can be found in a plant book.  One large plant can be crushed
and rubbed on a large patch of poison ivy rash.  It causes quick relief
from the itching and seems to help dry up the rash.  Many people seem to
know the plant by it's seeds  -In the fall jewel weed flowers, the flowers
soon change to pods which resemble very small pea pods, bieng only an inch
in length.  When the pods are ripe they will pop open at the slighest touch
and fling out tiny green or brown seeds.  The seeds are edible and taste
pretty good, though they hardly make a meal.
        Another remedy I have tried is poison ivy extract.  The poison ivy
is in the form of small sugar pills that are sucked on like candy.  The
idea is simple, if you take small doses of poison ivy over a large time
period, you will build up an immunity to the plant.  It also claims to be
able to clear up poison ivy rashes, but I have seen no effect to back this
claim up.  It is hard to tell if the poroduct really works, but my friends
and I have found that we don't seem to get poison ivy if we take it loyally
for most of the year.  The directions call for you to take it twice a day
for a week, every month and those of us who remembered to take it, we found
that we had much less trouble with poison ivy than those of us who forgot.

Dan Riedl
745 Clifton Blvd.
Mansfield, Ohio 44907
phone: (419)-756-7596
email:jriedl@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

gopher://wiscinfo.wisc.edu:2070/11/.image/.bot/Trees_and_Shrubs/Reference_images/Toxicodendron_radicans

From: isaac@CS.McGill.CA (Isaac Adams MURCHIE)
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996 06:22:23 -0500
Subject: Re: [l/m 8/2/95] Oak/Ivy Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ

hello mr eugene,

this is just a small note about your introduction to the distilled
wisdom post on poinson oak/ivy/sumac. while previously they had been
considered to be part of _Rhus_ they are now held to be more closely
related to each other than to the other sumacs. as such they have (by
miller) been placed in a separate genus, _Toxicodendron_. the main
reason for this change is differences in flower/fruit morphology
between the two genera.

thanks, isaac.

http://www.derm-infonet.com/comm/Nov95/terezakis.html
http:/www.derm-infonet.com/PoisonIvy.html
http://www.family.internet.com/peds/scr/000027sc.htm#FIRST AID:
http:/www.harvardpilgrim.org

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 21:36:00 -0700
From: dgrigsby@asymtek.com (David Grigsby)
Subject: Poison Oak


Hi Eugene,

I don't know if you're still interested in Poison Oak info, but...

I am just now recovering from a fairly massive case of Poison Oak.  This   
is Day 9 after exposure, which was in the Los Padres National Forest.  I   
ended up with solidly covered, draining regions on a leg and a forearm,   
patches all over, and one hand was so bubbly that it looked like it could   
only have come out of a special effects studio.  I even had bumps on the   
palm of the hand, which is amazing.

Anyway, I just wanted to respond/confirm some of the things I saw listed   
at www.nitehawk.dk/CarlsenRanch/hiking/p_oak.htm.

I tried the scalding water approach a few years ago and lost about a 4x4   
inch patch of skin revealing who-knows-what underneath - not recommended.

Caladryl is fair for drying but not for much else.

A product called "Sarna" is very good for itching.  Oatmeal baths were   
relaxing before bed too, but Sarna really addressed the itching, roughly   
for about an hour at a time.

On Day 2 after exposure I was prescribed Prednisone pills.  The dosage   
was supposed to be 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 mg on successive days.  This   
regimen seemed to have no effect - my symptoms continued to get far worse   
during this time.

On Day 7 I went back to the doctor and got an injection of some other   
steroid, I don't know the name.  I had noticeable improvement in about 5   
hours.  This is the second time that getting a shot did the trick.  The   
doctor said that the pills should have been just as effective, but that   
is not what I experienced.  I noticed no behavioral anomalies - but   
that's just my opinion!

As far as preventive measures, I've seen reference to two "new" products   
on the web:  Stokogard and IvyBlock.  I have no information on whether   
they work.

Dave Grigsby
Encinitas, CA.


Date: Wed, 24 Sep 1997 13:09:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: George Lenz <grlen@mdc.net>
Message-Id: <199709241709.NAA27104@netway1.mdc.net>
Subject: Poison Oak and Ivy

I found a "natural" herbicide against poison ivy in "Mary Ellen's Best of helpfu
l hints" (published by Warner/B. Lansky Books, c. 1979) which effectively and ec
onomically eliminates poison ivy plants.

You make a solution of 3 pounds of salt and 2 gallons of soapy water and spray t
he plants with it. You have to give them a couple  of applications, but it
works. We used it for areas where we wouldn't have salt run-off onto the lawn.
In areas adjacent to the lawn we used Round-up and felt the soap-salt solution
was probably more effective.  Both solutions neded two appications.
Also we used water-softener salt rather than table salt because we had a
large area to do and it was significantly cheaper to use. Not having a
sprayer we applied it rather spa ringly with a sprinkling can which is
really easy to do.

Trish (grlen@mdc.net)

Date: Tue, 18 Aug 1998 21:36:32 -0700
From: "R. Scott Truesdell" <truesdel@abominable.ics.uci.edu>
To: "Eugene N. Miya" <eugene>
Subject: Re: [l/m 1/9/98] Oak/Ivy           Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ
References: <6rbrhm$bk6$1@sun500.nas.nasa.gov>
Organization: Information & Computer Science, U. C. Irvine
Message-ID:  <9808182136.aa14627@paris.ics.uci.edu>

I just read the poison oak/ivy FAQ for the first time in a long time and
thought I'd throw in my $.02. This turned out to be WAY too long. Sorry.

I have grown up around poison oak ever since I was 2 years old, when we
moved to Sierra Madre, CA, in the foothills of the Angeles National
Forest. There was (still is) rampant poison oak just a block from every
home I've lived at for the last 45 years. In college, we had plenty of the
stuff right in our yard. 

I get poison oak bad! Not as bad as some I've seen, but I have been swolen
up over major portions of my body at times. I am fair and have moderately
sensative skin. I hate it with a passion and have developed an industrial
attitude towards it. It took me 35 years until I learned to deal with
poison oak effectively. Here's what I do:

 Preexposure Precautions
 -----------------------
If I know I am going to be around it, I try to put on "Armor", which is a
barrier cream put out by the same folks that make the Tecnu soap.
Available at REI. It's not terribly offensive stuff; I call its scent
"minty;" not at all unpleasant. The girlfriend and I have gone 'round 'n'
'round about the proper application sequence in environments with multiple
skin hostilities: Sun, Insects, Poison Oak. Here's what *I* do. I don't
know if it's correct, but it seems to work pretty well. 

 1. Shower well.
 2. Apply Armor to clean dry skin.
 3. Apply Sun Block.
 4. Apply Insect Repellant. (still using UltraThon.
    Seems to last longest. Anything better out there?)

Reapply sunblock and Ultrathon as needed.

I hate putting on creams and such, but I am not stupid and I know if I
don't use sunblock and the other stuff, I WILL PAY the penalty. I HAVE
paid the penalty. I use goop. 'nuff said.


 Post Exposure Recovery
 ----------------------
Others have detailed the undressing sequence sufficiently. It's not as
important to stick with a precise sequence as it is to be aware of what
you are doing, what you are touching, what will be your final procedure
after you have been through DeCon
(decontamination.) Undressing directly into the washing machine (or a
plastic bag (then double-bag) for deferred washing) minimizes subsequent
contact. Be careful of dragging clothing across those sensative areas as
you undress. Contamination there is NOT FUNNY. 

I use a stiff scrub brush and liquid dishwashing detergent in a cold water
shower. It is the full-on Silkwood routine. I scrub until my skin is pink.
I go for as complete exfoliation as possible. It is not comfortable. It
stings. It would be extremely difficult to wash a child this way. I even
do my face. When I come out of the shower I am glowing pink and VERY
clean. 


 Notes on DeCon
 --------------
On the occasions I have not done a thorough scrub job, I have had
subsequent breakouts in a long thin shape tapered at both ends. This shape
suggests to me that I simply missed an overlapping scrub stroke. Imagine
scrubbing yourself with a brush using back-and-forth overlapping strokes
over your entire body and visualize the shape of a missed area maybe 1/2"
wide. That's what it looks like. This, to me, is further evidence of the
effectiveness of the severe cold-water/detergent/brush DeCon; when I miss
a spot, that is the only place I break out.

Tecnu is fine but expensive. Fels Naptha may be fine too, but often time
you may need to DeCon when neither of these is available. I have had
complete and repeated success with straight dishwashing liquid detergent.
Cheap and nearly always available.  

Scrub EVERYwhere. Ears (ouch!) Ankles. Palms. Weener (ouch!) Butt. Face.
EVERYwhere. Scrub hard and ruthlessly. Go for pink skin. This is NOT a
comfortable shower. In fact, it's miserable. But nowhere near as miserable
as the two weeks of festering hell you are mitigating. And, actually, when
you are done and towelling off, you will feel great! Your skin feels great
after it is cleaned that well.

Now that I've discovered the Silkwood DeCon, I am much less obsessed with
the barrier creams. These decontamination techniques work well enough that
I only worry about barriers if I KNOW I am going to be exposed and will be
hot and sweaty.


 Topical Relief
 --------------
I've tried a lot of remedies including, as a teenager, a massive injection
of cortizone (I passed out!) It helped, I guess. None of the
creams/lotions/salves/balms or other remedies -- proprietary or home-brew
-- were worth the trouble. Cool water in a spray bottle worked as good as
most, which is not very much at all. 

The best "store-boughten" relief has been with counter-irritants such as
is used to relieve muscle strains. But even these don't works as well as
the one free eight-hour relief: the hot HOT shower. 

I am sold 100% on the hot shower. I don't know or care about the
physiology of why it works; it just does. I discovered it by accident
while showering in the morning. I had a medium-sized breakout and had been
applying any and all substances in the house (straight isopropanol is my
universal toiletry of choice) and was experiencing the same old
not-very-soothing results. As I was finishing up the shower that morning I
noticed that the water was hotter than usual and that it caused a peculiar
sensation as it contacted the poison oak areas--not exactly pleasant, but
not unpleasant either. It seemed to AMPLIFY the itching past the threshold
of sensation. It itched so intensely that it was no longer percieved as an
itch and proceeded to blend with the burn of the hot water. Then sensation
pretty much stopped altogether. I tried it on another affected patch with
the same results. Then over some unaffected skin. Finally I gave in and
sprayed every itchy patch with water as hot as I could bear. After a few
seconds of very hot water I found I could turn up the temperature even higher. 

The result was that I was itch-free for the entire day. The itch returned
gradually until I tried another hot shower in the middle of the evening.
Itching stopped again and I slept like a baby. 

 State of the Art
 ----------------
So now I have three means of dealing with poison oak that are inexpensive,
practical, and effective. After half a lifetime of suffering, I am free of
the tyrany of poison oak.

 *  Prevent - Use a barrier cream ("Armor" is specifically
    for poison oak but I imagine industrial barriers would
    work fine.)
 *  DeContamination - The Silkwood shower. At that point, 
    your skin is your enemy; treat it that way. Scrub your
    skin right off. You will be very very glad.
 *  Relief - Hot water, no doubt. With a thorough DeCon
    job, you should be left with very little, if any, break-
    outs. Spot treat them with the hot hot hot water for 
    all-day relief. 
The water should be hot as you can bare, but not scalding. You should be
able to stand under the spray of the shower. Hot but not scalding. Don't
burn off your skin, for crissakes!

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Scott Truesdell


From: Jerry M. Wright <Jerry.M.Wright@remove.verizon.net>
Found it.
http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2006/04/episode_50_bullets_fired_up_vo.html

Using vodka to remove the oil and terminate the response.  Doesn't
work.  That was the episode testing a bunch of vodka myths.

What they didn't realize that if you have not previously been exposed
to the oil, you get a one time free pass.  You need a sensitizing dose
first, after you are sensitized then the next exposure creates a
reaction.  I suspect the high rate of failure is an indication of
their lifestyle.  Whether or not you become sensitized is a stochastic
process on the part of the immune system.  It may take many exposures
or it could be the first one that works.  The fact you don't react
this time is no warranty for the next time.


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The ivy reaction is created through a delayed process which leads to a
very long and persistent reaction once symptoms appear.  Knowing the
mechanism of action is important in understanding how treatments work,
which treatments are likely to be successful, when a treatment needs
to be applied to have an effect and why they have limitations.

Allergies are a set of diseases called hypersensitivity reactions.
Basically, these are strong immune responses to substances which are
normally harmless and not typically associated with disease causing
pathogens.  There are multiple types of allergic responses based on
mechanism of action.  Because the symptoms often have many
similarities and all can result in death in extreme cases, the groups
are blended into a single amorphous concept in the mind of the general
public.

Allergic reactions mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) are short term
responses typically appearing a few minutes after exposure, peaking in
about 20 minutes and tapering off for an hour or so after that.  This
can trigger other immune pathways which lead to asthma attacks 8 to 12
hours later.  IgE mediated reactions are sensitive to antihistamines
and the reaction can be blocked by pretreatment.  However, it is
important to note that blocking the noticeable histamine sensitive
portion of the response (sneezing, coughing, redness, itch, etc) does
not block the other reactions that can lead to an asthma attack later.
Leukotriene inhibitors are effective in blocking the asthma portion of
the reaction.  Hence preventive treatment for allergy sensitive asthma
usually involves multiple medications.

The poison ivy reaction is a type IV hypersensitivity response which
is a delayed reaction mediated through T-cells.  It is not IgE
mediated and histamines are not involved; treating with antihistamines
is futile.  Nickel allergy, poison ivy reaction and the tuberculin
skin test are all type IV reactions.

The active ingredient of poison ivy is pentadecacatechol.  Basically,
the chemical has to enter a cell, be metabolized and modify other
proteins within the cell.  The modified proteins are then exported so
they can be detected by the T-cell mediated portion of the immune
system.  The entire response consists of several steps, each of which
takes several hours so the reaction usually takes 24 to 48 hours to
fully develop.  The site of reaction can progress over time to a
chronic dermatitis with a persistent local destructive immune
reaction.

Urushiol is a mixture of pentadecacatechol and several other
hydrocarbons found in ivy and other blistering plants.  Because of the
complex mixture of substances in the oil, there may be some immediate
reaction to other compounds in addition to the delayed type IV
response.

The overall process can take quite a bit of time to convert and export
the entire amount of oil deposited on the skin.  The initial itch is
just the tip; there's a lot more in the pipeline.  Removing free oil
at this point will reduce the subsequent response and permit rapid
healing.  Given the long time needed to process the oil, removal is
likely to produce benefits even when done hours after the initial
exposure.  

Ideally, oil removal followed by over the counter corticosteroid cream
should work well if done shortly after exposure.   By the time you get
to an MD, it is way too late for cream based steroid applications.
Systemic steroids are indicated if your reaction is severe.

Tecnu and Zanfel remove the oils on the skin hence they work best
shortly after exposure.  Steroids, either topical or systemic, reduce
the immune response.  

The relevant material in Janeway's Immunobiology and other medical
textbooks is online through NCBI for those who wish to have all the
details.  
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=Books

Mythbusters: Using vodka to terminate the poison oak reaction.
http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2006/04/episode_50_bullets_fired_up_vo.html

They demonstrated that vodka applies to a poison oak rash does not
reduce inflammation.  There were 2 important points they did not
consider but, if they had a good grasp of the process, there would be
no entertainment.
1)	The high percentage of staff that did not develop a reaction
is probably an indication of their lifestyle.  If you have not
previously been exposed to the oil, you get a one time free pass.  You
need a sensitizing dose first; after you are sensitized then the next
exposure creates a reaction.  Not everyone will become sensitized on
the first dose; it may take several exposures or may never happen. The
fact you don't react this time is no warranty for the next time.
2)	Once the rash has appeared, the immune system has already
massively ramped up its response.  Topical application of any agent is
like throwing a bucket of water on a barn full of hay already fully
engulfed in flames.  You may get some local relief but you haven't
removed the fuel.
 

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