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About Poison Oak

Poison Oak
Do not touch Poison Oak—it's a poisonous plant found along California’s coasts, forests, grassy hillsides, and recreation areas. You can spot the plant all year long, though it changes color from green to crimson red in the fall.

When you touch Poison Oak, its oil can cause an itchy rash that lasts about a week or more. Touching things that have come in contact with the plant (ex. clothing, shoes, pets, strollers, wheelchairs, tools, etc.) can also cause an itchy rash. The rash then becomes water blisters. The serum from these blisters, however, does not transmit Poison Oak.

How to Identify Poison Oak

  • It’s typically green in the spring and changes to crimson red in the fall.
  • It grows into groups of three leaflets with the center leaflet typically growing longer than the other two.
  • It grows into a dense and leafy shrub, ranging from one to six feet high.
  • It has a vine-like appearance.
  • It has either glossy or dull leaves.

How to Treat Poison Oak Rash

  • Do not scratch.
  • Wash itchy and affected areas with lukewarm water right away.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol or over-the-counter skin cleanser to wash away the oil.
  • Apply over-the-counter steroid cream to treat dermatitis (skin inflammation).
  • Apply calamine lotion to help stop the itching.

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • If the rash covers much of your body.
  • If you have many blisters or swelling–especially on your eyelids, face, or genitals.
  • If you have trouble breathing or swallowing.

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