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Poison Oak and Ivy - Exposure

Poison Oak attack
Poison oak outbreak

You should cover as much skin as possible while working with these poison plants, and remember not to touch your face. Take frequent breaks to wash  off the urushiol and to prevent sweating which opens up skin pores.  Afterwards, clean the clothing and tools used without directly touching them.  If possible sun dry the clothes after washing them.(1)  Wash yourself within thirty minutes of the exposure with a mixture of cold or tepid water and rubbing alcohol; follow this with more water and, optionally, soap.(1,3) Use “copious amounts” of water.(3)

Commercial skin cleansers that are designed to separate urushiol from skin
may also be useful.(4) After a reaction, hot water can help to reduce discomfort.(3) Calamine lotion, some steroid (hydrocortisone) creams and other similar products can help alleviate itching.(3) The blisters are not contagious because their fluid does not contain urushiol.(3) Reactions may not occur until hours or days after the exposure.(1,2)  If a serious reaction occurs, you should see a doctor.(2,3) Corticosteroid tablets and injections can stop the allergic reaction.(3)

More Protection
If skin may become exposed to these poison plants, you can apply a barrier
cream to attempt to keep the urushiol away from your skin.(1,4)  Protect your neck and face with hat, goggles, and bandanas.(1)

1. Daar, S. 1991. Safe ways to outwit poison ivy and poison oak. Common Sense Pest Control. VII(4): 7-14.
2. Callihan, R.H. 1990. Poison ivy and poison oak: Biology, toxicity, and management. Univ. of Idaho Coop. Extension. Current Information Ser. 856.
3. Hauser, S.C. 1996. Nature’s revenge: The secrets of poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and their remedies. New York: Lyons & Burford.
4. Richard, T. 1994. Albany firm takes the itch out of poison oak. The Oregonian (Apr. 28):4.


Poison Oak and Ivy - Identification 

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