By Paul M. Dake, M.D.

Q:  I tend to react to poison ivy and vaguely recall that you had an article about preventing it last spring.  I haven’t been able to find that information; would it be possible to send the paper another copy of the article?  The steroid medication my doctor prescribed for it last year helped, but I had some side effects that make me more interested in preventing the problem in the first place.

A:  Yes, indeed; here is the relevant text from that article.

Place Dawn Dishwashing Liquid in the shower before dressing to go outdoors.  Dress in a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, along with thick rubber gloves that reach nearly to your elbows, and tall rubber boots.  Leave your shirt sleeves unbuttoned, pull them up so you have room to move your arms and shoulders, and use masking/paper tape to tape the end of the shirt sleeves to the gloves.  Do the same with the bottom of your pant legs to your boots.

When you come back in after working outdoors, go straight to the laundry room and carefully strip down to your underwear.  Drop everything, including the rubber gloves, into the washer, then go straight to the shower, keeping your hands well away from your body.  Turn the shower on, then carefully remove all the rest of your clothing, taking particular care to avoid touching your skin.  Get into the shower and immediately use Dawn liquid to wash your hands while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ three times, followed by a thorough rinsing of both hands.

Continue showering in your usual fashion, but when finished, repeat the hand-washing technique again.

Dry off in usual fashion, dress and go to the laundry room to set the washer for a large load, add the appropriate amount of detergent, and set it to a long wash cycle, which should get all of the offending oil out of all of your clothing, making them ready for your next outdoor excursion.

To learn more about this and many other health topics, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website, where you can click on the Search box in the upper right corner of the website, and enter your topic of interest.

I want to thank Chad B. for suggesting this topic; if you have any particular topic you would like to hear more about, message me at