Summer is here, which means it’s time to lace up your shoes for outdoor activities, nature walks and new hiking trails. As you’re out and about, it is important to stay safe and keep an eye out for any plants that may pose a risk to your health, including poison oak.
Poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac are all types of plants that can cause skin reactions, most commonly an itchy, blistering rash. The rash is caused by oil found in these plants and often does not show up until 12 to 72 hours after you come in contact with the plants.
Poison oak is so common in the mid-Willamette Valley it can be hard to avoid – even trails within Corvallis city limits are dotted with it. While hiking and yard work are typical routes of exposure, your pet can also provide an unexpected source. If your dog loves backyard exploration or off-leash walks, petting your pooch can easily transfer the oil to your skin.
If you come in contact with poison oak, rinse the area with cool water. Hot water can spread the oil so keep the temperature low and wash the area with plenty of soap. Give special attention to cleaning under your fingernails and under watches and rings. You’ll also want to take precautions to wash your clothing and any equipment you may have been using to avoid repeat exposure to poison oak residue.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize we’ve been exposed until a rash develops. Symptoms include itchy skin, redness or red streaks, hives, swelling and blisters. Treatment varies depending on the seriousness of the reaction.
If you develop a serious reaction, including swelling of the face or eyes, trouble breathing or swallowing, or a rash that covers most of your body, go to the Emergency Department immediately.
For a typical case of poison oak, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines can help ease itching and reduce swelling and blisters. Tec Labs in Albany, Oregon offers a product line called Tecnu made specifically to counter poison oak, including a lotion and spray to relieve symptoms and skin cleansers to cut plant oils.
But whatever you do to relieve your symptoms “don’t scratch that itch." While itching doesn’t spread the rash, scratching can cause it to become infected and prolong your misery and healing time.
If over-the-counter remedies aren’t providing relief, an E-Visit might be the right option for you. MyChart E-Visits offer fast, secure, online appointments that will connect you with a Samaritan Health Services provider to get the care you need.
Visit samhealth.org/MyChart to learn more or start your E-Visit.
When you need health care right away Samaritan offers many options. Find out where to go for different kinds of care.