California Poison Control System (CPCS) reminds residents that with warm weather expected through the fall, poison oak remains a serious threat especially to those who are allergic to the plant. Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is found in the Mother Lode and grows from sea level elevations into the mountains. Grassy hillsides, forests, recreation areas and coastal locations are home to the plant.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources describes poison oak as forming a dense, leafy shrub from one to six feet high when in grassy areas and it has a climbing vine-like appearance when intertwined with other shrubs and trees. 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 green, red or dull leaves as it dries out.
Dr. Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS warns, “In addition to coming in contact with the plant itself, you can contract poison oak by touching contaminated clothing, shoes, gloves, pets and tools. Even smoke from burning plants can cause irritation.” He adds exposure in allergic individuals will result in a rash about one to six days that itches and then forms water blisters. The serum from these blisters does not transmit poison oak as many people think. Repeated exposure does, unfortunately, increase sensitivity. For tips on avoiding poison oak view the new blog “Poison Oak Warning” here.