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August Newsletter 5 Tips for Poison Oak Rashes


Poison Oak

Seasonal Advice Happy August everybody. I hope everyone is enjoying the hot summer and getting outside as much as I am. It’s so much fun to hike and play in the local rivers and lakes. Here in Auburn, we’ve got to be on our toes when playing outside. We’ve got rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions, and plenty of poison oak. Poison oak looks beautiful with it’s changing colors but is pretty unpleasant if you touch it. If the oil gets on your skin, there is a good chance you’ll get the nasty rash. Did you know water alone can deactivate the active ingredient, urushiol, that causes the rash? If you think you’ve come in contact with poison oak, flush the area with cool water within 5 minutes. If more than 5 minutes has past, you can apply bentonite clay over the affected area and it will soak up the urushiol oil from your skin and pores. Leave the clay on for 20 minutes then rinse with cool water. If a rash has already appeared, here are some things you can try:     -Rinse with cool water then take a really hot shower or bath. The hot water opens your pores and releases most of the histamine from the surface layer. By depleting your histamine (which causes itching), you can be itch free for about 8 hours. You’ll probably feel very itchy right after the shower but not for long. Also, you can add powdered oatmeal the bath to soothe your skin.     -When the rash is in the wet, oozing phase, applying calamine lotion or bentonite clay will help dry it out.     -Try applying aloe vera gel or calendula cream directly on the rash. You can chill them in the fridge for added relief. Ice and cold compresses feel pretty good too.     -Take some supplements that help heal skin and promote a healthy inflammation response. For example, vitamin A, E, and C, omega 3s, or nettles. If your rash is severe, try Skin Balance by Health Concerns.     -Eat foods that reduces the damp heat of wet rashes: cucumber, celery, bitter melon, wax gourd, bok choy, amaranth, cabbage, lotus root, water chestnut, loquat fruit, watermelon, banana, bean sprouts, mung bean, poria, kelp, and duck meat,     -When your rash is in the dry, itchy phase, smear hemp lotion or cocoa butter over it.     -Eat foods that nourish the skin and blood, dark green leafy vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina, sprouts, legumes, and black strap molasses. Red colored foods are great for building blood like goji berries, dark grapes, and raspberries.  Animal sources of blood builders include organic meat, eggs, and liver.

You can find the supplements and many of the foods listed above at my online store.

Below is a yummy recipe to help with wet rashes. Cucumber is great at draining damp heat. Sunomono (Japanese cucumber salad) calls for fresh ginger which is hot in nature and can increase the burning of your rash. I don’t add it when I’m trying to reduce heat in my body but you can add a little, maybe 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root, if eating raw veggies is hard for you to digest. For more authentic sunomono, peel and deseed the cucumbers. I leave the seeds and skin on for their nutritional value.

Recipe Sunomono

2 large cucumbers
 1/3 cup rice vinegar 
 2-3 teaspoons coconut sugar 
 1 teaspoon salt 


Cut cucumber into very thin slices. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir then add the cucumber. Refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavors soak in. Enjoy!

Acupoint Spleen 10 血海 xuehai sea of blood Location: With knee flexed, 2 inches (about the length of your thumb) above the superior medial border of the patella on the bulge of the medial portion of quadriceps femoris (vastus medialis) Action: Help skin problems from damp heat or hot blood - wet rashes, eczema, painful/hot sores. Treat gynecological issues - irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, cramping, PMS, uterine bleeding

Massage for 30 seconds, firm enough to activate but not enough to bruise.

Exercise When your rash is burning, it’s a great time to go for a swim in cool water, preferably out in nature. I talked about this in last month's newsletter. The cool temperature of the water will help soothe the burning sensation and water has incredible healing abilities for the body and spirit. Get in the water and just notice as much as you can. The temperature of the water, the sounds of birds or other people, the breeze on your face, the scents of the outdoors. It’s healing for your spirit to be really present in water. Plus, it’ll be a nice distraction for you from your itching. When outside in this heat, use sun protection, drink water, and eat some healthy food.

Meditation How to stop itching This is kind of a hard core meditation. You can try it for a few seconds or minutes at a time.  This meditation will help resolve itching and strengthen your will power. First notice when the itching starts. Then don’t scratch it. Sounds simple but it can get rough. Keep with it and keep noticing everything you can about the itching. Don’t scratch and don’t try to escape the itch. Where is it exactly? Where isn’t it? What does it feel like? Hot? How hot? Does it sting? Does it have a color associated with it? A smell? A old feeling it brings up? Notice everything and just tolerate it. Scratching that causes further damage to your skin is a type of self-mutilation. Strengthening your will power and not scratching is an act of self-care. The key to relieving itching (or pain or any sensation) is to really understand it at a deep level. The more you notice it and focus on it, the more you watch it resolve. I’ve had many patients who have had severe pain say the only way they can deal with it was to focus right on it. You can reward yourself for not scratching by applying cold compresses, ice, or chilled aloe.

I hope everyone has a lovely month of August and none of you get a poison oak rash. I look forward to seeing you at your next office visit.

Dr. Heather Bird

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