Poison Oak Rash: How to Treat It

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

There’s nothing more alarming than getting caught in poison oak. Even worse when you are trekking outdoors and there’s no immediate help for it. Now before you disagree about exploring outdoors because of poison oak, it is best that you inform yourself about this plant and what you can do in case you come in contact with it.

What is Poison Oak?

Poison oaks are plants that can be a bushy shrub or climbing vine found in the Pacific Coast, Southern Canada and Baja California peninsula. This plant is usually deep red in color during autumn and has three or five veined, shiny leaflets which you can find growing along California coast. Depending on its variety, poison oak can also be found in eastern and southeastern parts of the United States. It can also be found in the western part of Oklahoman and Texas. The Atlantic poison oak is identified by its three leaflets which has a hairy or fuzzy appearance that resembles the white oak leaves. During fall, these leaves turn yellow or orange in color.

Being exposed to the oily sap found in the roots, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit usually results to skin irritation. The severity of this irritation can be range from mild to severe. Study shows that about 50 to 85% of people are allergic to poison oak.

Upon contact with the plant, the bruised or broken part of it releases toxicodendrol which is an oil residue that contains the toxic chemical urushiol. This residue is similar to lacquer that does not dissolve easily in water. That is why it is hard to wash off even if you do get immediate help.

How to tell if you are allergic to poison oak

Poison oak rashes can be extremely itchy. Red rashes will eventually appear within 24-72 hours after being exposed to the plant’s oil. These rashes usually appear streaked and may come with oozing blisters. Although it is not really alarming, being allergic to poison oak can be really uncomfortable as the rashes can itch really badly however, in case the allergic reaction becomes severe, contact a physician immediately. You need to watch out for swelling of the face or throat, swelling or rashes that can cover one-third of the body, rashes in the genital areas and if there’s an increase in pain, redness and pus on the blisters.

What to do in case of Poison Oak allergy

Using topical creams or ointments that help relieve the itch can help. Calamine lotion like Caladryl can also help. If your skin becomes irritated from scratching, Aloe Vera gel can help heal it. You can also take oral prednisone. Don’t use topical steroids unless you have been prescribed by a doctor. Make sure to change your clothes as soon as possible and wash them right away. Don’t use bleach and other corrosive solutions to treat poison oak rashes. It will only worsen the condition. If you can, check in yourself to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. This way the proper medications can be administered.

Of course things like this cannot be avoided especially when you are outdoors but it never hurts to educate yourself too. Be aware of how a poison oak looks like and always wear protective clothing once you decide to spend time out with nature.