Little did I know my fate was sealed as I brushed against the thick foliage while loading kayaks onto the truck. The day had been glorious, following the the sunshine with the rhythmic dipping of paddles into the water. We were learning from an instructor how to read the water currents to safely navigate a river. However, the danger for me that day turned out not to be in the swift water currents. It was in my inability to identify poison oak.
It didn't take long for the rashes to show up and spread all over my body. With my skin inflamed and irritated from head to toe, few remedies brought as much relief as an oatmeal bath. Simply make a large pot of “oatmeal tea” by using six times more water than oats. (For example, one cup oats in 6 cups water). Cook the oats for about 15 minutes to draw out the healing properties into the water. Strain and add the “cooking liquid” to your bath. Put the solid cooked oats in a porous bag. Muslin bags work well or a DIY version such as nylon stockings or cotton tied into a bag. You can add this oatmeal bag to the bath, but be sure to keep it contained in the bag! I learned the hard way and had a difficult time explaining to my grandmother why her bathtub drain was severely clogged with oatmeal. Oops!
The anti-inflammatory properties of oat tea baths sooth any kind of skin irritation, whether it be poison ivy/oak, sunburns, insect bites, chapped/dry skin, rashes, or eczema. Oatmeal is gentle so it works on all skin types, including sensitive skin of babies and the elderly.
What makes oatmeal so soothing and healing for the skin?
- Oats contain polysaccharides and proteins. This means they leave a protective layer on the skin which helps prevent dryness as well as help maintain the skin’s natural barrier function of keeping the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.
- Itchy and dry skin as a high pH level. Oatmeal aids with restoring balance and normalizing the skin pH.
- Oats are filled with saponins. Saponins are natural cleansers which work to remove irritating dirt and oil from the skin’s pores.
- Oats contain one of the highest lipid content of natural cereals. This is good news for the skin since it acts as a moisturizer and lubricant.
Just be sure to pat your skin dry instead of rubbing. Rubbing causes irritation which would undo all of the amazing benefits of an oatmeal bath. While oatmeal baths do provide relief, the best form of relief is prevention. Stay well hydrated and learn the causes of your skin irritation. Educate yourself on how to prevent it from happening.
Personally, I've learned to identify poison oak and poison ivy. :-)