This page is dedicated to my family, friends, and readers who may be allergic to poison oak and need help identifying it in all of its various stages and forms. Included after the photographs are pointers to help prevent adverse reactions.
Here in northern California there is poison oak
flourishing along otherwise great hiking trails.
You're unlikely to find poison oak over 4,000 feet elevation,
but keep in mind a trail's elevation changes.
True oaks grow leaves singly rather than in groups like poison oak.
|I took this photo of poison oak along Cardiac Hill Trail in Auburn, CA this March 2013! |
It is everywhere, tall, bushy, vines, hidden, and looming like grand shade providers!
|Taken on the trail to Fairy Falls, also known by other names, in the Spenceville Preserve near Camp Far West. That IS poison oak.|
|This shows you poison oak in bloom. |
And pay particular attention to the three leaf structure. The top leaf extends more than the others which grow like arms out to the sides.
Here is what is left of this dormant poison oak plant.
|A close up of the same tall poison oak above |
when it was dormant. It may have an orange or reddish tinge, maybe burgundy,
from the oils, but smoother texture than other bark or branches nearby.
In the fall and late summer, maybe early fall, poison oak leaflets are quite pretty,
displaying an array of autumn colors and are photogenic too!
that causes the miserable, oozing, itchy, red rash, so watch what you have contact with.
and reddish coloring typical of poison oak.
- Avoid any contact with any part of the plant and avoid touching pets and equipment that has had contact with the plant. Dead plant parts may still have oils that cause the rash.
- NEVER BURN poison oak that is dead or alive. (Be careful about firewood you pick up.)
- Take plastic bags for boots and maybe even a change of clothes for the drive home.
- Medical sources say use rubbing alcohol as a rinse, followed by rinsing with cold water is most effective in preventing an outbreak. Avoid rubbing too much. Mainly try to rinse as much as you can. Water dilutes the oil but cannot dissolve it.
- It is not best to use hand wipes. They spread the oil on your skin and rub it into your pores. Soap can't dissolve the oil either, but you can use it if you rinse well and avoid rubbing it in.
- If you can, prepare ahead by having a gallon jug of water and rubbing alcohol for cleaning up. I do carry it in my car to clean equipment anyway.
- If your dog is along, and it touches the oils, your contact with the pet can transfer the oils to your skin and it is best to wash thoroughly within 5 minutes.
- Also, using rubber gloves, remove your clothes and launder immediately. The warm water will remove the oil from your clothes.
- When you are finished handling your clothing, clean oil from the gloves with rubbing alcohol.
- If you develop a rash from poison oak contact, it can be within hours or may take weeks from the time of contact. It is not contagious, even if you develop the oozing blisters. The fluid is your body's attempt to push the oils out of your system, but it does not spread the rash. If the rash spreads it is simply part of the process your body uses to remove the oils.
- Recovery may be fairly quick (average is around 10 days) or may take as long as 4-6 weeks for severe cases. Over the counter products may help according to my friends who battle this allergy, but most end up getting medication from their doctor.
* I do not get rashes from poison oak contact. My information is from reading medical reports, websites, and from friends who hike and are allergic to it. If in question, talk to your doctor for preventative recommendations and treatment. My hope is to offer photos and descriptions that help you identify the plant and prevent contact with it.