Pro Tip: Poison Oak
For many mountain bikers, rafters, and kayakers poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is one of the scariest things found in the woods. This nasty bush is commonly found in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. The leaves or branches contain the toxic oil urushiol which causes an itchy allergic skin rash that can be quite severe.
Poison oak can easily be identified by looking for clusters of three leaves that resemble oak leaves. The plants are generally the size of a small shrub but can be larger or even a vine on a tree. The leaves are green in the spring and change to a reddish color by fall.
"Leaves of three, let it be" Famous Vulcan Proverb
How to Handle Poison Oak
- Learn to identify and avoid it. If you know your favorite mountain bike trail or kayak portage route has poison oak then stay home or go somewhere else.
- If you decide to go out anyway and there is a chance you made contact with this nasty plant then wash thoroughly with soap and water. Urushiol is an oil that cannot be removed by water alone. Technu is a popular produce that works on your skin and clothes.
- Don't forget to clean your clothes, gear, dogs, and friends. Urushiol can get on them too and later spread to you.
- If you get the rash then it's probably too late for soap and you may have this rash for a few weeks. You are going to be in a bit of pain and will probably be whining about it incessantly. This is where your friends start giving you all kinds of sketchy home remedies. I've found a product called Zanfel that works for relieving the itching and removing the oil which speeds up the recover process. It's about $40 a bottle and you can get it at most drug stores.
- At some point when it becomes unbearable you may end up at the emergency room where they can give you a strong medication. If you have poison oak on your genitals, eyelids, or tongue then you definitely want to go to the emergency room asap.
- About 80% of people are allergic to poison oak.
- Poison Ivy is a similar plant with urushiol that is found across the U.S..
- If you have even a slight chance of having urushiol on your hand don't even think about touching your penis.
- Don't burn poison oak. Inhaling urushiol smoke is very dangerous.
- Scratching the itch can lead to infection.
Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor. These are some things I've learned from many poison oak rashes. If your case is severe please visit your doctor or emergency room asap.