Poison oak rash is an allergic reaction of the surface of the skin due to its direct contact with certain substances. It is type of contact dermatitis. Poison oak rash can result in a lot of distress and unpleasantness. However, it is not a serious condition and does not pose any threat to one’s health or life. It is best to prevent the causes that lead to the condition, rather than getting affected and then treating it.
Poison oak and other similar plants such as sumac and poison ivy are toxic in nature and produce an oily resin known as urushiol. This resin is the primary cause of the development of the skin’s allergic reaction which causes poison oak r ash. Poison oaks grow throughout the length and breadth of United States, especially in the Southeast. It is not found in the mountainous regions, the deserts, Alaska and Hawaii.
It is essential that everyone is able to recognize poison oak plants and thereby avoid contact with them to prevent the allergic reaction of the skin.
The plant produces leaves with three leaflets. But since poison oaks grow thick and wild along with the vegetation, it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish them from other plants. Hence, it is best to take precautions such as wearing the appropriate clothing, when one is venturing into an area which is known to have growths of poison oak as well as other toxic plants. This is the best way to avoid contact and thus prevent instances of poison oak rash.
Symptoms of poison oak rash
The severity of poison oak rash depends on two factors, i.e. the sensitivity level of the individual exposed to poison oak and the severity of contact. Most individual are not that sensitive, but there are some who can get affected and develop the rash even with the slightest contact with the plant.
Some of the symptoms of poison oak rash are discussed below:
- Most individuals develop poison oak rash a few days after exposure to the plant. Sometimes, one may not show the symptoms even after many days, which generally leads to confusion as to the area where the exposure took place.
- Poison oak rash develops in the form of reddish curved lines on the skin and usually contain bumps and blisters that are itchy. The rash may appear gradually over the period of a few weeks and its growth generally depends on the amount of resin contact with the skin in a particular body part. The gradual growth of poison oak rash may indicate that it is spreading, but that is incorrect. The growth and the liquid in the blisters are a part of the allergic reaction of skin to resin contact.
- When individuals come into contact with poison oak through secondary sources such as pets, clothing, tools, etc. then there may non-liner development of poison oak rash that are more spread out.
- On occasions, the eyes, lungs, mouth and the airways may get irritated when exposed to smoke from the burning of poison oak or other such toxic plants.
Causes of poison oak rash
- Poison oaks have a toxic, oily resin called urushiol. Any contact with it results in the development of poison oak rash.
- Poison oak rash is not contagious and does not spread from one affected individual to another. Contact with urushiol is the only way to develop the rash
- One may develop poison oak rash through direct contact with the berries, leaves, root or stem of the plant or through in direct contact with tools, pets or clothing contaminated with urushiol.
Treatment of poison oak rash
There are several ways to treat poison oak rash. Some of them are mentioned below:
- It is essential to thoroughly wash all the areas of the skin that may have come in contact with poison oak. This may not prevent the development of poison oak rash, but can substantially limit its effect.
- Most cases of poison oak rash tend to disappear on their own within a few weeks and do not require any special medical treatment other than self care.
- One may resort to medications to ease the constant itching that accompanies the rash. One may consume Benadryl or Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine to alleviate the itching.
- The pus or other liquids that ooze from the blisters can be dried with compresses that use Burow’s solution
- One can also apply topical medications such as cortisone creams on the affected areas before the appearance of the blisters or after they have dried up.
- One can also get relief from the symptoms of poison oak rash with the use of calamine lotion, cool compresses and oatmeal baths.
- If the blisters caused due to poison oak rash are infected by bacteria, then such secondary infections can be treated with oral antibiotics.
- Individuals who are affected by severe instances of poison oak rash that are extensive and widespread may be prescribed oral steroids such as prednisone.
Poison oak rash pictures