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3 Leaves, Let 'Em Be!!!

Poison Oak is one of the most common skin infections that doctors see. Poison Oak is prevalent in the Idyllwild mountains so we are going to do a little bit of studying here to keep you safe from the plant. Poison Oak is not Poison Ivy, so lets get the lingo down right away. Poison Ivy is found on the east coast and Poison Oak is found on the West Coast. It is easily identifiable by its leave configuration, three leaves grouped together. However, in the winter, when the leaves are absent, it is very difficult to identify. The leaves, stem and root of the plant should not be touched. It even remains a problem with its dead leaves that have fallen off the plant.

Poison Oak emits a poisonous oil irritant called urushiol(u-roo-she-ol). This urushiol oil in the Poison Oak is what makes you itch. In it's pure form, the amount that you could fit on the head of a pin could make over 500 people very miserable. Urushiol is an oil that does not evaporate, so it can linger around for a year or more.

Spring Time

Fall / Autumn



you become exposed out on the trail: The best thing to do if exposed to Poison Oak is to wash it off with soap immediately. However, showers and locker rooms are not always available on mountain hikes. Therefore, once again, you will need to be prepared before hiking. Always bring a little kit full of different first aid items, soap should be one of them. Poison Oak specialty soap is also available but even regular soap will do the trick most of the time. If you do not have soap, then plain water will have to suffice. Time is of the essence, you must wash the oil off of your skin before the oil has time to penetrate. Plan on real problems after a few hours of exposure if not treated. The oil is very difficult to see with the human eye. Most people touch their faces, scratch their necks, and so on; therefore, assume that you have been exposed all over and wash accordingly.

If you have already begun to develop the rash associated with a Poison Oak I have some bad news for you. There is no anti-toxin available for urushiol. There are many products available to treat the symptoms in an attempt to make you more comfortable. Washing in hot water with strong soap within the first 24 hours will help.

Once a person is infected with a rash, it is not communicable. If someone touches your rash they will not get infected, but I also try and be safe and if I have touched someone with Poison Oak, I will was afterwards anyways. An old myth is that if you scratch the area, you will get more infected. This is only true if the oil is still present. Scratching can cause serious secondary problems with the skin. So, try not to scratch. If blisters form, do not "pop" the blisters. Once again, serious problems can develop such as blood poisoning if you pop and scratch at your blisters. It is always a good idea to see a doctor. There are many treatments that a doctor can prescribe to help with the problem.

OK, lets be real safe here. After a hike, it is always a good idea to go take a shower, whether you saw Poison Oak or not. As I previously stated, it is difficult to see the oil. so be safe. I am sure most of us are dirty and stinky after a long hike anyways, but it is a great idea. If it is just a day hike, Come Home, Shower up, change your clothes and launder your clothes appropriately.

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