Poison Ivy Show and Do



Depending on who you believe, it was either Confucius or Benjamin Franklin or someone else entirely who said, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

Whoever said that probably wasn’t talking about poison ivy, but he could have been. For generations, Scout leaders have been telling their Scouts to wash up after exposure to poison ivy, and for generations Scouts have come home from camp covered head to toe in itchy rashes.

I recently found the solution in the form of a YouTube video by Dr. Jim Brauker, a biomedical scientist who has studied skin inflammations for 25 years. In the video, Dr. Brauker explains that urushiol, the oil in poison ivy and other plants that causes rashes, clings to the skin like axle grease. Getting it off requires soap, water, and vigorous scrubbing with a washcloth or loofah.

To demonstrate, he smears axle grease on his forearm, then tries to wash it off with bar soap, dishwashing liquid, and an expensive first aid remedy. Until he starts scrubbing with a washcloth, nothing affects the grease.

I encourage you to show this video to your troop. (It runs about five minutes.) But then I encourage you to repeat his experiment. Have your Scouts smear grease on their arms and then discover firsthand how much they have to scrub to remove it–and how easily traces can hide between their fingers and on their elbows. They could even replicate Dr. Brauker’s experiment with different cleaners. I’ll bet they carry that knowledge with them to the woods next time they are exposed to poison ivy.


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