a big problem with getting Poison Oak is identifying the plant. If you
can't spot Poison Oak a mile away, your only recourse is to never
touch any vegetation at all while on the trail or doing whatever
recognize Poison Oak by its trademarked 3 leaf pattern. Unfortunately,
there are other plants with triple leaf patterns too.
cannot depend on the color. In some areas, the leaves remain green the
entire time they are on the stem. In other areas the leaves are red in
ranges from sea level to 5000 feet altitude in various forms, such as
spindly plants, bushes, or climbing vines. Being a very common "shrub"
in California, it must be watched for everywhere.
The Poison Oak rash is
cause by a chemical called urushiol. This is present in poison
oak leaves, branches, roots, everything. When you touch it, the oil is
absorbed into the skin. This is a poisonous substance, and the rash is
the result of your body's immune system fighting against this invader.
In the Spring,
the leaves are light, bright green with whitish green flowers clustered
on the stems.
In the Summer,
Poison Oak has yellow-green, pink, or reddish colors on some of the
leaves, with small white or tan berries after the flowers of Spring.
and certain conditions can even cause leaves to become Yellow.
becomes darker, the leaves turn bright red or russet brown.
insidiousness of this evil weed is laid bare. The leaves and seeds
fall, leaving stick or whip-like stems or climbing vines.
You can get Poison
Oak by touching the plant, its leaves, roots, whatever. If an animal,
such as your dog, gets in Poison Oak you can get it from petting the
dog (the dog won't get the rash though). You can get it from your
clothing or equipment that touches Poison Oak.
The rash doesn't appear
until after the oil is absorbed into your skin, because it is
caused by your body's immune system. If you think you have exposed an
area of skin to the oil you can the clean the area with rubbing
alcohol, this may limit or even stop the oil from being absorbed.
Once you get the
rash, you can't spread it around by scratching. The oil that seeps from
your wounded body isn't urushiol, its secreted by your body.
The reason most
people think it will spread is because of secondary infection. You
touch a poison oak plant, the oil is on your hands. You rub your face,
it gets there. That is how the oil is spread. Now after a while, there
isn't as much oil to spread around, so some parts get hit more heavily.
What this means is, the rash appears soon is some spots, and takes a
couple of days in other spots. This gives the illusion that you've
spread the rash by scratching or whatever.
Just make sure you
aren't getting brand-new infection from your clothing. Whenever you go
in to an area where Poison Oak is, as soon as you get home put all your
clothes, shoes, everything in a bag, and wash it all. Only through
extreme paranoia can you avoid poison oak. The alternative is to never
go anywhere fun.