The Poison Ivy Update

Poison-ivy-uma.jpgLast week, advice on the miracle protector against/cure for poison ivy, Tecnu. (Uma Thurman's rendering of Batman-world character Poison Ivy at right.)

This week, readers' additions and clarifications. One writes:

>>Maybe you don't know it, but soap and cold water usually works if used quickly. Even more effective is rubbing alcohol. No need for Tecnu.<<

No "need," perhaps, but it's worked for me. Next, on the surprising fruit-world parallels to poison ivy:

>>I too am crazy sensitive to poison ivy. My family physician once told me that one of my outbreaks was the worst case he had ever seen.

You probably know this, but mangoes are in the poison ivy family (this was the next thing my physician told me).

A couple of summers ago I broke my mango fast and had a mango smoothy. I was hideously itchy all over my body for weeks. My wife nearly killed me because I was driving her nuts with my self-inflicted itching.

Stay away from mangoes!<<

Hmm. So far I have coexisted with them without harm. The Japanese angle:

>>No poison ivy here in Japan that I know about, but we do have lots of lacquer (aka urushi).  I found out the hard way doing some lacquer repairs that the active toxin in poison ivy and poison oak is called urushiol, which, no surprise, is present in copious amounts in uncured urushi.  I read somewhere that American troops returning from Japan after WWII with souvenir Japanese rifles--with the lacquered stocks--were coming down with mysterious rashes after killing time on the boat home sanding down their toys.  If only we all had Tecnu.<<

More low-tech alternatives:

>>Actually chlorine-free bleach works very very well for getting rid of poison oak! tecnu is many times more expensive.... I was skeptical at first. its a pretty wonderful trick. it does dry out your skin a bit at first.<<

And another:

>>Up here in northern MN, where I have now spent 63 summers, the standard treatment for exposure to poison ivy is Fels Naptha laundry soap, which comes in a bar.  It's brown, it's unattractive, it looks toxic, but it works, and has for a long time.  One merely slices off a small sliver of the soap and then uses it in the shower, just like any other soap.  Our household has been using the same bar of Fels Naptha for at least a decade, so it's economical, too.  I've used it when just exposed to poison ivy and I've used it when poison ivy has taken hold, and it has always been effective.  It has been around a long time.<<

Thanks to all; may this be of use. Back to politics, the economy, and language shortly.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Health

From This Author

Just In