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SJStuart
13-12-2013, 22:22
The guys in the Suffolk Bushcraft Group already know this, but I figured I'd share it here for the benefit of anyone else suffering the same symptoms who hasn't figured out a cause.

Basically, when the Suffolk group moved from our old site (where we were burning Pine/Birch wood) to our new site (where we're burning mostly Ash) I started developing an irritating rash on my hands, arms, face and neck... as well as breathing difficulties at times.

At first I had no idea what was causing it, and thought it was some kind of illness. I went to my doctor who told me it was a classic allergic reaction, but he couldn't even guess what might've triggered it.

Anyway, this got me to thinking (since allergies are important to know) and I set about trying to figure out what - specifically - was causing the reaction.

I noted that the only areas of skin affected by the insanely itchy rash (itchy enough that I couldn't sleep at night, and was compelled to scratch so aggressively that I broke out in blisters within hours of the onset of symptoms by the way) were areas of exposed skin. This deduction made me suspect that it was something in the air, rather than something I had physically touched or handled.
My first thought was pollen, but I quickly discounted that given that there's nothing growing in the area that I'm not exposed to in other areas.

On my second visit to that same site, I took note of the types of wood we were burning in the communal fire. Of course, on that second visit to that site, I suffered the reaction again.

Returned to my doctor who prescribed me a topical steroid cream to help combat the symptoms (it doesn't really work in all honesty).

Once the rash cleared up, I decided to do physical tests burning different types of wood to see which one triggered the reaction. Low and behold, after exposing myself to the smoke from burning Ash wood, the reaction began within hours (note: I only burned one kind of wood each day, so as not to corrupt the results)

Now that I know that the smoke from our camp fires causes this reaction, I can deal with it, and I'm going to share all of these tips with you all now lest any of you find yourselves suffering a mysterious allergic reaction in a new woodland:

1) Minimize exposure to smoke (stay up-wind of the fire)
2) Cover as much skin as possible (wear a couple of neck tubes to cover your face above and below your eyes and of course your neck, long sleeves, gloves etc)
3) Remove ALL outer layers of clothing at night (I've noted that the reaction can reoccur by primary contact with smoke-laden fabrics) and wash them thoroughly as soon as you can.
4) Wash your hands more often than you normally would when you have to remove your gloves. Remember that smoke is filled with particles that stick to anything they touch... including your skin.
5) Carry a healthy supply of strong allergy tablets (hay-fever tablets will help a little)
7) Carry a supply of allergy cream in your med kit, and don't be hesitant to use it on affected areas the moment you feel the itching begin
8) Avoid the urge to scratch! It'll just make it infinitely worse, I assure you!

Anyway, if this information helps even one person then it was worth my time writing it :)

Ecoman
13-12-2013, 22:30
Excellent post. Thanks for the advice. I'm sure it will help a few people on here.

SJStuart
13-12-2013, 22:33
Excellent post. Thanks for the advice. I'm sure it will help a few people on here.

Cheers! I just hope it spares anyone the learning curve I had to suffer before I got it all figured out :)

Oh also want to disclaim that purposefully exposing yourself to things you suspect you may be allergic to can be mortally dangerous... and should only be done with either suitable medical support on-hand, or when you know with certainty that the affect is not life-threatening in any way.

John Fenna
13-12-2013, 22:33
One lass who came on one of the first bushy/canoeing courses I ran found out that she was allergic to a wide variety of wood smoke.
I understand she gave up bushcraft as a hobby as the allergy was so severe...

SJStuart
13-12-2013, 22:36
One lass who came on one of the first bushy/canoeing courses I ran found out that she was allergic to a wide variety of wood smoke.
I understand she gave up bushcraft as a hobby as the allergy was so severe...

I must admit, I did seriously consider whether I should ever attend the Suffolk group meets after the second time the reaction occurred. That's why I so thoroughly investigated the cause... because I really do enjoy the group meets.

That said, if her reaction was anything like mine... I can honestly understand why she gave up the Bushcraft. The itchiness is like nothing I've ever experienced before, unimaginably intense!

Clouston98
13-12-2013, 22:41
That's a real shame mate :(. I've got bad allergies to all chemicals from aftershave to floor cleaner, my nose gets almighty chock-a-block and I have to breath through my mouth and always sneeze, luckily though wood smoke often makes it better, as does fresh air :).

Thanks for posting that :).

Macaroon
14-12-2013, 09:57
A very informative and useful review; I've never suffered this but I know a couple of people who have, so now I have something to point them towards.....Thanks for this.

Gaudette
14-12-2013, 11:24
Excellent information thanks for the post.


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shaggystu
14-12-2013, 11:28
Really interesting, thanks for that :)