Poison oak rash is caused by a chemical called ‘Urushiol’ which is found in the poison oak. When this substance comes in contact with the skin, it causes dermatis. Dermatis is the inflammation and irritation of the skin. Urushiol oil is present in all the parts of the plant namely the roots, stem and leaves. The oil is a colourless to light yellow coloured substance. It oozes out of the plant if the plant is cut or crushed or broken. When this comes in contact with skin, it causes allergy. It is not contagious but can spread if the oil gets on the hands. Urushiol can remain active for a very long time. It can stay active on any kind of surface, even on dead plants.
It is caused by direct, indirect contact or by airborne. Direct contact is when the skin directly comes in contact with the oil. Indirect is when the oil gets on the body through indirect means such as tools, equipment, pet’s fur. Objects can carry the oil on its surface and spread it. Airborne is when Poison oak is burned. The oil particles can settle on the body and the chemicals may be inhaled.
The symptoms are redness, swelling, rashes, blisters and itching. The blisters slowly crust and can appear anywhere on the skin where the skin is sensitive or thin. This chemical released by poison oak is easily absorbed by skin and the allergic reaction can appear as quickly as within 12 hours.
Doctors prescribe steroid creams for application for the treatment of poison oak rashes. Some home remedies for poison oak which give relief from the itching and help healing take place faster are
1. Cold Water: Cold water is effective when used as soon skin comes in contact. Cold water helps spreading the oil. So use as much water required to spread it off the body totally.
2. Hot baths: After getting the rash, taking a hot shower releases histamine. Histamine causes itching. Release of histamine lowers its level giving relief from itching. For sometime hot bath can cause intense itching when histamine is released.
3. Oatmeal: Soak oatmeal and apply this on the rash. This makes the blisters dry.
4. Aloe Vera: Apply Aloe Vera gel to the poison oak rashes.
5. Vinegar: Apply white vinegar. Dilute it and apply. Be careful as it may cause stinging.
6. Banana peel: Rub the insides of a banana peel to get relief from itching.
7. Tea Tree Oil: Dilute tea tree oil and apply to the affected area.
8. Jewelweed: Jewelweed is also known as the touch me not plant. Make a paste of this and apply.
9. Citrus fruits: Massage the peel of citrus food on the rash.
10. Baking Soda: Put little baking soda in the bath or make a paste and apply. Be careful not to apply this on open wounds.
If you have poison oak growing, it needs to be destroyed. Do not burn the plant. Wear protective clothing like full pants, boots, gloves and full sleeves while being anywhere near the plant. Wash with cold water immediately on contact and avoid scratching the blisters. Apply calamine for relief form poison oak.
By: James Napier
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