Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Can You Immunize Yourself Against Poison Ivy?

Q&A on exposue

Emily Oster

2 min Read

Hi Emily, I loved the podcast interview with Gideon Lack. I told my dad about the novel theories of allergies, and it jogged his memory from when someone told him (he thinks while on the Appalachian Trail) that the best way to immunize yourself from poison ivy is to eat it. Is there any evidence for this, and should I be feeding my child poison ivy? Thanks in advance for considering my crazy question!

—KT

Thanks for listening! For anyone who missed it, that episode of the podcast is here (and you can subscribe so you don’t miss other ones here). As you note, the ideas we talk about there do seem related to your dad’s crazy idea.

Is it true?

I began this investigation with a delightful article from 1931 about poison ivy. I learned a lot (it’s not an ivy, that’s just the name Captain John Smith gave it; few if any people are immune; etc.), but I did not learn the answer to your question. This author notes that it is a commonly discussed possibility, and he thinks it has some possible support given that it was a long-standing tradition among some Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. However, there is no compelling data.

Things haven’t changed too much! A 2019 summary has only slightly more evidence to bring to bear. A number of studies have tried using poison ivy or an oil extract to generate desensitization to skin exposure. For the most part, these are not studies of people eating poison ivy (which may well give you a contact rash in your mouth, and you probably should not do) but people taking pills with poison ivy extract. And the studies are not large. They are like this one, which rely on a small number of case reports and experimental doctors’ treatment.

These studies all claim to show some promise, enough that I’d be interested in seeing what you’d get with a large randomized controlled trial. But I do not read the evidence as close to strong enough that you’d want to dose your child. For now, better to teach them what poison ivy looks like and that they should not touch it.

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It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

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It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
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If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
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#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

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Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...