You come home from a hiking trip with your family. Then you just start to itch and find red blisters cropping out. And the next thing you know, you are stuck at home with a bad case of poison oak rash. The sad thing about this is that this whole situation could have been avoided if you were able to look out for these dreadful plants. So, what does poison oak look like?
Poison oak grows almost everywhere in the mainland United States. The only places where poison does not grow naturally is in Hawaii, Alaska, and in the dessert areas in the U.S. And poison oaks in the different regions of the country have different structures and prevalence. In the western region, poison oak is seen as both a low and high shrub and even as a climbing vine, while in the eastern part, poison oak is usually just a low shrub. Poison oak is most prevalent in the Western United States.
Poison oak has three leaflets that form one leaf. It highly resembles the leaves of an oak tree which is why it is called a poison oak. The leaves have bright colors. And in the autumn, the leaves turn into a bright yellow color then into a bright red. A poison oak also produces a whitish flower during mid-summer to fall, around August to November.
So if you go about on a camping trip or hiking with friends, be watchful of these plants. Take note of where you are passing and what you are treading on. If you see this plant along the tracks, better avoid that path or be extremely careful not to touch these with your bare skin. You should also be careful of your belongings. If they touch poison oak and you later touch your things, you could still get an allergic reaction.
It is the oil found in poison oak, the urushiol that is responsible for giving you those horrible rashes. And if the oil gets onto your things and you touch them or if the oil gets to your skin directly from the plant, you will most likely end up with rashes. So once you are exposed to poison oak, wash your things and take a bath with cold water.
Poison oak is not the only thing you should be careful of. There are two similar plants that can get you those rashes. Poison ivy and sumac are just as terrible. Watch out for these as well; especially poison ivy as it is the most common among the three. And these can be found not only in hiking trails, camping grounds, or around lakes. They can be found even in your very own yard.