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Poison Oak DermatitisPoison Oak
Toxicodendron diversilobum

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Poison oak dermatitis is a skin irritation caused by coming into contact with the plant's oily sap or resin. While 50% of the population is considered sensitive to the oil, it would be unwise to consider yourself part of the lucky 50% that isn't. The oil is absorbed by cells underneath the skin producing a histaminic response as the body attempts to deal with the invader. 

Initial symptoms include skin irritation and itching followed by water blisters. The condition rarely lasts beyond 10 days. The plant's oil itself is the only cause of the dermatitis. It is not transmitted by the liquid secreted by the blisters. There are a number of ointments and other preparations available to relieve the discomfort produced by poison oak dermatitis. Consult a health care practitioner or pharmacist for advice. In cases of a severe reaction such as swelling, see your doctor immediately.

If you have come into contact with poison oak, wash the exposed area with lots of cold water. As the resin is oily in nature, it is difficult to remove by hand soap. Rubbing the skin with isopropyl alcohol and then rinsing the area with cold water might prove more effective. However, if the oil has already been absorbed by the skin, washing will not prevent an outbreak of poison oak.

Remember to wash any clothing or footwear that has come into contact with poison oak as the oil remains an irritant long after it is rubbed off the plant. And don't forget Fido. If she's been rolling around in poison oak, she may need a good bath as well no matter how much she protests.

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