What should you avoid if you are allergic to poison oak?

Poison oak is now prevalent in southern California. For those of you who have ever had a poison oak allergy, it is now time to be particularly careful. Hiking areas and even park grounds can hide this devious culprit. You must be vigilant in trying to avoid contact, especially during this time of year.

Some of the things that you might want to consider would be avoiding rubbing up against any kind of brush/trees/bushes while walking or running outdoors and avoiding all fires made with wood or branches where poison oak may be growing as the smoke is a strong allergen for every part of the body with which it comes in contact.

I recently saw a patient who had been carrying pieces of wood across his arm while clearing brush. The wood had been in contact with poison oak, and the bark had rubbed the resin into his skin.

The rash seen from poison oak is red, itchy, and frequent blistering. In many areas, a linear scratch can be observed.

Poison oak on black skin reacts similarly to the allergies on whiter skin; however, the lesions may be harder to diagnose and differentiate from other skin conditions.

In addition to the allergic reaction, poison oak frequently becomes secondarily infected, which can add honey-colored crusting to areas that have been scratched. The rash tends to be intensely itchy.

Initial treatment at home can be over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream applied frequently throughout the day, as well as calamine lotion to the blistering areas. Over-the-counter Polysporin ointment (not any neomycin containing ointments) can be applied to any bacterial infected areas producing these honey-colored crusts.

A poison oak allergic reaction can be very serious and extremely uncomfortable. If at-home treatment doesn’t significantly help, a visit to your local dermatologist is highly recommended.

– Dr. Bussell

Beverly Hills Dermatology Consultants

433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 805   Beverly Hills, CA 90210 | 310-550-7661

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