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Poison Oak

Whenever you’re enjoying the great outdoors, there always seems to be poisonous plants lurking to your left and right. Most people that end up with poison usually lack the knowledge of what it is, what it looks like, and how to prevent it from becoming a rash. So, you can find everything you want to know about poison oak in the information below.

What is Poison Oak?

You can find poison oak on a vine, a tree root sticking out of the ground, when touching a tree, or a host of other ways. However, it’s not the tree itself that creates this unsightly rash on the skin. Humans contract poison oak because of the oil that is in the poison oak. It is known as “Urushiol.”

Unfortunately this oil can end up on your clothes, hiking equipment, shoes, or anything else you take with you in the woods. Once you touch it, the rash will begin for those who are not immune to it. The worst part about it is when you go hiking once, throw your sneakers in the closet for six months, and then pick them up. The urushiol is still there, so even if you’re just cleaning out the closet, you could end up with poison oak. Experts say that the oil can last on apparel or other items for up to a year.

What does Poison Oak look like?

In order to stay away from this potential rash, you have to know the poison oak plant. Without a clear understanding of how to identify it, the only way to stay away from it is to make sure you don’t touch anything in the wilderness. For outdoors people, this could create a problem, but with a little help you can easily identify poison oak.

Here are a few ways to tell whether or not it’s a poison oak plant:

1. The 3 Leaf Pattern – Even though there are several plants with three-leaf patterns, it is one identifiable measure. Keep in mind; it is possible to see bushes, plants, trees, and vines, but the leaf pattern will always be the same.

2. The Four Seasons – One of the easiest ways to identify poison oak is by knowing the colors during each season. For instance; when it’s Spring time, you will notice that the colors are bright green. You will also usually see white/green flowers on the stems.

During the Summer months, you will see the color of the leaves change to a yellowish-green. It’s also possible to see them in pink and red. The poison oak has progressed at this point to offer berries as well. These will either be white or tan.

Once the weather starts to cool, the berries and leaves get darker. They are typically bright red, but sometimes brown. Then of course, in the winter months, all the leaves are on the ground, as well as the berries and seeds. However, they are just as poisonous on the ground as they are on the plant, especially if the weather starts to warm.

Poison Oak Causes

The obvious cause is coming in physical contact with the plant. Once the urushiol touches the skin and you’re allergic to it, the rash will begin to develop. We also already mentioned the issues that can occur when the oil is on a piece of clothing, shoe, apparel, or anything else you might touch. This holds true if you’re hiking with a stick that touches poison oak, and then you touch that same area of the stick.

Another way of contracting poison oak is if your dog runs wild in the wilderness and their coat touches the plant. The urushiol oil will be on their coat, and it’s possible you can get a rash from petting them. This is why it is very important to give your pet a bath shortly after the hiking trip or walking through the woods in your backyard.

The other way to contract poison oak is by inhaling it. It’s the worst possible thing that could happen. Sometimes, individuals that own wooded property will burn leaves during the fall. Sometimes poison oak plants or leaves can find their way into the pile. If you burn the leaves and inhale the smoke, it’s possible to have internal poison oak, which results in the entire body ending up with the rash. You can easily eliminate this option by not burning leaves or be around anyone that does burn leaves.

How Fast does Poison Oak Spread?

Well, a lot of people don’t realize that poison oak cannot spread. It only looks like it spreads, because some areas of the skin will show the rash before others. Let’s run through a quick scenario so this makes a little more sense.

You’re playing with the kids outside and end up with a bunch of urushiol on your hands. However, hours are spent outside and the entire family has been rolling around in an area where the poison oak plants are present. It’s a hot day, so you wipe your forehead to get rid of the sweat. Unfortunately there is urushiol on your hands, so you end up with a rash on your forehead. Also, the sweat was making your arms itch, so you rub both of them to feel better. Again; there is still urushiol oil on your hands, so now you will end up with the rash on both arms.

Everytime you touch something, the urushiol on your hands begins to go away. Eventually you won’t have to deal with it anymore, but right now it seems like it’s spreading all over the body. On the first day you started seeing the rash on your forehead, but it wasn’t until the second day that your left arm showed signs of the rash. The rash also became present on the third day, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first two areas. This is because there wasn’t as much oil on the hands when you rubbed that arm.

Hopefully this makes sense, and it will help you realize that preventative measures should always be taken when you’re around areas where poison oak is present.

How to Overcome Poison Oak

Once you know poison oak is present and the itching starts to take place, the best thing to do is take a cold shower. There has been a long debate whether or not hot water has a negative affect on your rash, but in some cases it might be helpful. The goal of your shower is to cleanse the body of any additional oil present. You should also make sure that all the clothes worn during your contact with poison oak is put in the washer and cleaned immediately.

Now, if you want to use hot water, do it in the sink. Take one of your affected areas and hold it under hot water (not luke warm). Yes, it might hurt a little due to how hot it is, but some people have found relief for about 4 hours after doing it. If you do take this route, be sure to disregard the instant itching sensations you feel in the beginning. After a minute or two this will begin to subside and the itchiness will disappear.

Listen, this isn’t the chicken pox, so don’t try to use Calamine lotion. No one ever really feels satisfied with the results, so it’s a waste of money. We’ve also heard of people using vinegar. We have tried this personally, and it’s not worth your time.

Another thing to consider is going to the doctor. It’s possible they will have something like Prednisone, but it’s only prescribed for a week. This is due to potential infections taking place. Since poison oak typically lasts for two weeks, you will need to look for additional solutions. However, the Prednisone does work well.

We’ve also heard that human urine is helpful, but it’s not something most people are willing to try.

Preventative Measures

We’ve already discussed the some of the preventative measures that can keep you from dealing with poison oak. Taking showers immediately after being exposed is the #1 priority. Your clothes should also be washed thoroughly, and you need to disinfect all your other essentials like; hiking equipment, glasses, boots, and anything else in this category. The best thing to use when disinfecting these other items is alcohol. Oh, don’t forget to bathe the dog either.

When you’re out in the wilderness, always keep an eye out for poison oak plants. Utilize the information we’ve given you hear today, so it’s easier to spot poison oak plants, bushes, vines, roots, or trees. This alone will give you the opportunity to enjoy your time outdoors and not have to worry about dealing with poison oak. Also, you might want to try using mud packs. We haven’t used this personally, but it’s supposed to draw the urushiol out of the skin.

The best thing to do is find out what works best for your body. Just because one things works or doesn’t work for some people doesn’t mean it will be the same for you.