Leaves of Three

Leaves of Three

poison oakPoison oak is a fact of life in Northern California, and you don't have to rub up against it to develop a blistering rash: your dog can do the rubbing-up for you.

Transfer of urushiol, a surface oil that causes allergic reaction in about 75 percent of people exposed, is easily accomplished via your dog's coat. What happens is predictable: your pat your dog, the oil gets on your fingers, your fingers get near your eyes…eight hours later, you're in misery. Animals with fur (lucky dogs) don't normally suffer skin irritation, though a rash on the nose or belly is possible with high exposure.

The best way to avoid contact with poison oak is to wear long sleeves, long pants and socks—and put them in the washing machine as soon as you get home. First aid in the field involves flushing the exposed area with water and dousing with rubbing alcohol, if you have some. Dogs suspected of exposure need a thorough scrubbing before they come into the house.

If you do develop a rash, you can self-treat with over-the-counter soothers including old-fashioned calamine lotion or witch hazel. One product highly touted for "outdoor itch" is Tecnu, whose manufacturer claims it can remove urushiol from the skin two to eight hours after exposure and before the rash begins. Others swear by Ivy Block, a lotion that can be applied as a preventative.

Posted on: March 1, 2011

poison oak, itch, hiking
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