The Aftermath of Sespe

Warning: This next post contains pictures of my extremities that have been afflicted by brushes, trees, sharp desert-dwelling plants, poison ivy, and rocks. Pictures may contain images of subject matter that might make a squeamishness person even more squeamish. You have been warned.

A few days after coming back from Sespe, I thought our ‘adventure’ in the wild was over. Boy, was I wrong. I noticed a few bumps on my arms that were moderately itchy, but I put it off and thought they were just bug bites. Then a few hours later, more bumps began showing up on my legs and other parts of my arms that were unprotected from the lashings we received from the brush engulfing the trail. Then, after browsing through the internet and a discussion with my fellow adventurers, we realized that we got poison oak on our skin, and that it took 48 hours for the blistery rashes to appear.

In order to find relief from these rashes, I tried various methods to alleviate the itchiness. Cold showers provided temporary relief, but once I had dried off, the itchiness returned, and since staying in a cold shower for more than 10 minutes is not a pleasant way to spend time, this was not an option. Instead of staying in a cold shower, I tried using cold packs, which worked until the packs warmed up. Also, we did not have enough cold packs to cover all of the poison oak I had contracted. Then, JL told me that he had tried showering with vinegar, and other forums on the internet suggested this method as well. I figured, ‘heck, why not?’ and went into my pantry to find some vinegar. Sadly, I ran out of white vinegar, and only had rice vinegar and red vinegar. Not wanting to have red splotches all over my body, I used the rice vinegar. Boy, did I smell. Rice vinegar has a specific odor that lingers on the body. Not only that, the acidity caused a burning sting on my cuts. So, I went to CVS and bought some itch relief gel, which helps immensely.

The active chemical in Poison oak/ivy/sumac that causes the rash is called urushiol, which is a benzene ring with 2 diols (catechol) and an akyl side chain. The compound is soluble in alcohol, ethers, and benzene, but I don’t have any rubbing alcohol, and I’d rather not tap into my liquor fridge to get rid of the rash, but I guess the -OH groups in the vinegar should remove the urushiol.

Anyways, I’ll be surfing later today, and hopefully the saltwater will help the recovery.

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