If you’ve ever had a poison ivy rash, you know there are few things in life as painful, annoying and disgusting. What’s an outdoorsy person to do, other than try to avoid the nasty green stuff and deal with it if we fail?
Split the difference and stop a rash in its tracks, that’s what! Jim Brauker, a scientist, self-described wildlife enthusiast and author of Extreme Deer Habitat, says he’s found a simple solution to the poison problem. All you need to do is understand what causes the rash, and you can stop it before it starts.
Jim Brauker’s expertise in this area comes from his studies of skin inflammation and his understanding of urushiol, the oily allergen in the plant that’s causing all these problems. Yes, it’s not so much poison ivy’s leaves or the green stuff itself that causes our rashes, but an allergen that likes to hang out on it, as well as other plants like poison sumac, poison oak, pistachios, cashews, and even mangoes!
Brauker swears that understanding this information is the key to never fearing poison ivy again. In fact, he starts his video tutorial off by standing in a bed of the stuff, with more large vines of it all around him. But he refuses to be scared. Instead, he makes the bold claim that “if you understand how poison ivy works [like he does], you never need to get a serious rash again for the rest of your life.” His confidence in the midst of all that dangerous green tells us he really means it, too.
The rashes, he explains, only come from contact with urushiol, but you don’t have to touch the plant itself to be exposed to it. Touching things like tractor tires, rakes, and other farming, gardening and landscaping equipment can also transfer the allergen to your skin, even months or years after the tools touched the poison ivy.
Scary thought— but it doesn’t have to be! Brauker reassures us that the problem is allowing the urushiol to enter and infect our skin, not only come into contact with it. Using axle grease as a stand-in – since the greasy, invisible allergen acts in a similar way – the scientist shows that we don’t want to let the urushiol absorb into our skin beyond initial contact with the top layer.
To put it even more simply: “You don’t get a poison ivy reaction just because you got the poison ivy on your skin; you get it because you didn’t effectively get it off your skin.”
The good news here? Even if you do come into contact with poison ivy and/or another plant or garden tool carrying urushiol, you still have time and a chance to stop your skin from becoming irritated by it. The solution is brilliantly simple: washing. Thorough, careful washing, that is, with all the right tools, within 2 to 8 hours of contact.
As Jim Brauker says, “Easy right? Well, not really.” Watch him explain why this news is really news in the video below, and be sure to take notes during his skin-washing demonstration.
So there you go— according to Jim Brauker, if we get poison ivy rashes, it’s our own fault, not the fault of the plant! Have you tried this method before? Do you have your own tricks to avoid the painful poison ivy?