In my last post I wrote about the rather dramatic reaction I had to an inadvertent exposure to poison oak. This post will be a brief update on the subsequent healing of the rash. The punch line is that I’m – finally – pretty much back to normal: I’m ready to return to trail hiking, as well as other typical activities like workouts at the gym, which I’d put on hiatus.
Once the prednisone started working, within just a few days the rash stopped spreading, then toned down and began to heal. The large blisters were the most evident and dramatic presentation of my reaction to the urushiol oil. I think that the healing of the blisters has been simply the skin’s normal healing process. After the large blister on my left leg initially drained over several days, it partially refilled and drained a few times. Eventually it stayed drained and the outer layer of skin gradually started to dry up and flake off. The same process followed a few days later on my right leg. I was a bit surprised that the drying and flaking took about 2 weeks to complete. I did not rush this process at all; in fact, I continued applying a wet compress at least once a day until the last flake came off on its own.
I also monitored myself for any kind of rebound after the prednisone protocol was complete. This course of treatment lasted 20 days. Happily, there was no new rash after the initial flare toned down.
Considering myself to be kind of a scientific experiment, I have continued to take pictures periodically. Here is how my left leg looks now, 7 weeks after exposure, compared to the peak:
The area that had been under the blister is still somewhat pink. I suppose the color will fade gradually as the next layer of skin renews itself. Here is a similar comparison for my right leg:
There is a much smaller area of slightly pink skin, and it is where the initial rash appeared.
I have continued walking 4 or 5 days a week and I’ve pretty much returned to my normal wardrobe. I was excited to wear wool slacks recently – not so much because the weather was cold (it wasn’t) but because I could wear the slacks without any irritation.
I want to mention my hiking boots. After an initial, incomplete, decontamination attempt I quarantined the boots while I tried to figure out what else to do. I had purchased them at REI and, during a conversation with a footwear specialist about how to decontaminate them, she indicated that I could actually return them in exchange for a new pair. In fact, that is exactly what I did (I had to pay the price difference, but I received full credit for the price I paid for the initial pair). I am truly grateful that REI has such a generous return policy. It is just one reason I continue to be a satisfied member.
I feel like my situation fits the often-quoted Shakespeare play title: All’s Well That Ends Well. I am now fully ready to resume hiking at a level that is consistent with my ongoing hip recovery. And now that I know I am allergic to poison oak, I’ll certainly be more careful about where I walk – starting with staying on-trail anywhere it might be growing.