Updated: Mar 31
When working in the construction industry, coming in contact with poison oak can be extremely possible, especially when working in highly vegetated areas. In this post, I will be giving a quick review of what you can do to avoid contact, when possible, and what to do when contact occurs.
Are you itchy yet?
Poison oak is commonly found in grassy hillsides, forests, recreational areas and coastal locations. Tully Consulting Group is located in Dixon, California, roughly 100 miles from both the Sierra Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, we have had our fair share of run-ins with the unpleasant plant while conducting our weekly inspections and performing water quality monitoring.
Identifying poison oak can be somewhat tricky, but once you become familiar you will be sure to look out for it! The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources describes poison oak as "forming a dense, leafy shrub from one to six feet high. Leaves normally consist of three leaflets with the stalk of the central leaflet being longer than those of the other two and it has either glossy or dull leaves." While thoroughly descriptive, I personally needed a visual. Please see below for a couple of photos of poison oak.
According to parksconservancy.org, in the springtime poison oak tends to be shiny and smooth, and very green with little-to-no red on the leaves. Summer months are very similar with the exception that by the end of summer the leaves do start to turn reddish. Fall brings the plant to the predominately red phase and as winter rolls in, the leaves start dropping off.
Here are some tips to avoid the reddish-green monster:
Wear ankle-high (or higher) boots to completely cover the foot and ankle area
Stay on the beaten path when hiking. Going off-road will heighten your chances of coming in contact with the plant
Know what you are trying to avoid. Become familiar with identifying the itchy nuisance
Remember the old fashion phrase "Leaves of three, let it be!"
Now that we have a fresh photo of "the enemy" in our minds, we can now go over some helpful tips from Calpoison.org on what to do when contact has been made.
Do NOT freak out!!
Do not touch the area that came in contact with the plant
Try your best to not touch any other areas of exposed skin
Wash the affected area with lukewarm water
Apply rubbing alcohol, which will help with washing away the oil from the plant
Wash all clothing, tools, and pets that have been exposed
Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream can offer some relief from the itching
Do NOT scratch the rash as that can cause infection
Get immediate medical attention if you have trouble breathing or swallowing; the rash covers much of your body; you have many blisters; or swelling occurs, especially of the eyelids, face or genitals
For more information about Poison Oak, see here: https://www.poison-ivy.org/pacific-poison-oak & https://www.almanac.com/content/poison-oak-identification-and-treatment
While here at Tully Consulting Group, our end goal is to help keep our waterways clean and clear (which helps both humans and critters), we all need to be cautious of Mother Nature and her bad seed (Poison Oak). I hope you enjoy and respect our beautiful planet this summer and remain poison oak-free.