Trail Running and Poison Ivy

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I’ve received a lot of ChiRunning email lately responding to my blogs about trail running. One topic that has popped up more than once is poison ivy, that nasty little plant that loves to make your skin look like an overcooked cheese pizza. I’m highly allergic to it, so I can empathize with all of you out there who spend a good part of your summer running in places other than your favorite trails, because they’re covered with the stuff. I flatly refuse to let a little toxic plant ruin my trail running so I spend a couple of hours a week covered from head to toe, in 80º heat, clearing trails near my home here in Asheville. I’ve never run in a place where poison ivy is the predominant ground cover.

Apart from resorting to clearing trails, I have found a great way to prevent the onset of a rash or to cure an infestation before it grows into a full-blown systemic case (which has happened every summer since I moved here three years ago).

Here’s what I do. When I return from a run where I know I’ve brushed up against poison ivy, I immediately throw all my running clothes in the washing machine with plenty of soap and a small amount of bleach…even my shoes! I then take a shower and pretend that I’m trying to scrub my skin off of my bones, using plenty of soap. I use a soap made from Jewel Weed which is an antidote for poison ivy, but any strong soap will work. Never take a bath after being in poison ivy or if you have an existing rash! Always take a shower.

As soon as I get out of the shower and dry off, the first thing I do is swab my legs with hydrogen peroxide to neutralize any oil residue that might still be on me. So far (knock, knock) I haven’t had a single case of it this year…and I’ve waded through plenty of it!
If I happen to get a rash (it starts of as little blisters on your skin) I immediately reach for the hydrogen peroxide, in which I soak cotton balls, and scrub the little blisters hard enough to break them. Then I repeat the hydrogen peroxide scrub about 4-5 times a day until the rash dries up and goes away. This technique has worked 100% for me and since I discovered it at the end of last summer. Since then I’ve never had a case of poison ivy last for more than about 3 days, which is completely acceptable compared to the usual 3 weeks (after a round of steroids) it used to take to get over it. So, now you don’t have to let a little poison ivy stop your summer trail running fun, you can go running in the hills to your heart’s content.
Happy trail running,


Posted in Inside Chi, Technique

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