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November 21, 2006

Poison Ivy Mitigation

It's been a busy year for geocaching in the bush, but I haven't had any major issues with poison ivy. I thought I'd write down and share the mitigation techniques I've been using.

1) Dress appropriately. Wearing long pants, socks and shoes significantly reduces the likelihood of direct contact.
2) Identify and avoid. Learn to recognize the plant in its various forms. http://www.poison-ivy.org/ has some pictures. Avoid the plant when possible, tread lightly when it's not possible to avoid it. This way you reduce the amount of oil you may pick up.
3) Limit contact area. Try to only expose the minimal amount of yourself and possessions as possible. I try to keep this limited to my lower legs below the knee. I'm extremely careful when bending down, reaching for something or setting down my bag.
4) Assume you've got it. Just a mental exercise that helps. If you assume you are carrying around the poison ivy oil, you'll probably remember to follow the rest of the tips.
5) Don't spread it. Try not to touch potentially exposed areas, avoid touching sensitive areas like your face and just avoid touching things in general. Keeping some alcohol based wet-naps around is great way of helping keep your hands cleaner.
6) Clean up as soon as possible. When you've finished, get rid of the clothes you were wearing, removing them carefully to avoid spreading any oil you've picked up. (remember that they might have the oil on them when you put them in the laundry bin and when you wash them later) Wipe down your shoes, especially the laces. Clean anything else that you may have touched. Do it right away before you forget to and continue to spread the oil. Wash your hands frequently and have a shower, cooler the better. Rinse well with just water first as soap and serve to loosen and spread the oil.
7) Treatment. If you happen to get exposed anyway, my typical treatment is anti-histamines and a prescribed cream. There are also over the counter lotions for before or after contact which I haven't tried. You may not see symptoms for quite a while after exposure, up to a week or two. However if you find symptoms after this period, assume you've spread it previously and re-clean everything.

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