The Voice of Experience by Sam Soga

Ease the Itch

People who fill their packs with over-the-counter meds for poison oak almost universally report the same conclusion: “They Don’t Work” including Benadryl. You’re simply miserable, and in for 7 to 10 days of itching before spontaneous healing will occur.

There are, however, two possible antidotes available for your first-aid kit: calamine lotion and vinegar. To use the calamine lotion, shake the bottle well, then dab it on with clean clothe (a bandana works fine). Calamine lotion relieves the itching a bit, and forms a protective crust over the irritated area, which will help prevent you from scratching it. There’s no need to wash the lotion off, but you can reapply it as often as necessary, when it gets rubbed or sweated off.

To use the vinegar, mix it with a little water, soak your bandana, and cover the irritated area. Leave the soaked bandana in place until evaporation has dried it. You can reapply vinegar as often as necessary to help relieve the itching. The water you mix with the vinegar does not need be disinfected, but it should be clear.

The best solution, however, is to avoid walking through the stuff.

Bug Off: Tips to Keep Away Insects

Wear light-colored, protective clothing. Loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and pants made of tightly woven fabrics are best. Zippers beat buttons. Tuck in wherever possible and seal with duct tape if necessary. Finally, wear a head net.
Avoid floral-scented soaps, and deodorants. Biters home in on such smells, as well as sweat, body heat, and carbon dioxide. Pace yourself to avoid breathing too hard, and to keep perspiration to a minimum.

Be choosy about your campsites. Mosquitoes tend to concentrate in very isolated areas, especially around marshes and in the deep woods where depressions collect melted snow. Blackfly populations, too, are greater in the vicinity of water-especially near pristine, fast-moving streams. Solution? Whenever possible, stay out of the shadows and steer toward windy areas like ridges and mountaintops. And when you pitch your tent, pick your perch carefully. Try to camp where it’s dry.

If the biting buggers still manage to get to you. We’ve heard of two multipurpose remedies for use in the field. Make a paste of baking soda and water, then dab it on the bite; or, rub on a bit of Preparation H ointment.

Don’t Stop Here

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