Monday, April 25, 2016

Urushiol Will Make You Itch

What is Urushiol?

Urushiol is the oil found in poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac that gives you an itchy rash when you touch it or anything it has touched. Where I live on the West Coast, we are more likely to come in contact with it from poison oak, the plant most common here that is coated with it. If you touch poison oak, the urushiol will make you itch. To avoid touching it, you'd better know how to identify poison oak. 

Poison Oak Photos

I have written an article all about identifying poison oak in every stage of its life here: Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?  Poison oak is actually a beautiful plant - just not one to touch.  I'm going to share some of my favorite photos of it in this post. I have plenty of opportunities to photograph it, since it grows on my property and in many of the oak forests that grow near me. It's easiest to spot in autumn when the leaves turn red, as above and below. 

Poison oak loves to climb trees. 

And live under trees.

Wherever poison oak lives and hides, no matter how beautiful those red leaves, don't touch it or take it home to use in an autumn centerpiece. Remember, it's urushiol will make you itch. 

What to do if You Do Touch It

If you should forget or somehow come in contact with the urushiol oil, wash your hands or any affected body parts as quickly as possible with warm soapy water. Don't bring contaminated clothes or shoes in the house if you can help it. Don't throw them anywhere but in the washing machine. 

Here are some other facts you should be aware of.  The most important one is that urushiol remains able to give you a rash for up to five years on a surface. That surface could be your clothes, the side of your car, or whatever else the oil touches.

Immediately wash contaminated objects, including clothes, with soap or detergent. You can wash the clothes in the washing machine, but wear gloves to do it, and then wash them. Clean the oil off your shoes, too, and don't forget the soles. Keep one of these products on hand if you have poison oak on your property, work on trails, frequent the woods, or hike a lot. If you apply these products immediately after or even before contact, you may be able to prevent the rash or lessen its effect on you. Here are three of the most highly  reviewed. 

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