Poison Oak Rash Picture

Poison Oak Rash: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Poison Oak Rash may not poison your body, but causes an allergic reaction. It can irritate the skin and cause redness and other visible signs. Every person has a different type of skin. But, certain substances can cause allergic reaction irrespective of the skin type. Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, the reaction may differ. Poison oak can release oil that can trigger such adverse reactions on your skin by just coming in contact with it. So, you can see rash, redness or swelling in the area that comes in contact with the plant. When you realize that you have come in contact with it, wash it off quickly. It can reduce the ill-effects. But, who are not aware of it may feel the effects, including itchiness for several days.

What Is Poison Oak?

Before going into the details of the rash, you need to know more about the plant causing it. Poison oak is scientifically known as Toxicodendron diversilobum. It comes under the flowering plant genus referred to as Toxicodendron. Poison ivy and poison sumac are two other plants that come under the same genus. The poison oak is a climbing vine or a bushy shrub that you can find in different parts of the USA and Canada. Two different types of species are available in the world. The Pacific or western poison oak is a common species found along the southern Canada region to the Baja peninsula in California, USA. It can grow 5,000 feet above sea level.


The poison oak has alternate leaves. So, you can see three, five, seven or even nine shiny leaves one at a time emerging from the stem. It has a white-green color in the spring while it turns deep red in color in the autumn season. Another type of the Eastern or Atlantic poison oak. You can find the species in the Eastern or southeastern sandy soils of USA. Therefore, it is prevalent in areas like Oklahoma and Texas. It may look similar to the white oak leaves. But, the leaves of the plants have fuzzy or slightly hair appearance. The leaves can turn colors depending on the season. It has an orange or yellow color in the fall season.

Appearance Of Poison Oak Plant

Generally, the poison oak plant looks like a leafy shrub. It can grow up to a height of six feet. When the plant grows in shady areas, it resembles a climbing vine. Each of its leaves is about one to four inches long. Though the leaves can cause an allergic reaction, it has a stunning feature to it. The leaves change colors according to the season. So, it has an attractive visual appeal. It produces small flowers that may vary in color. Therefore, you can see green, yellow or white flowers. It grows berries in the summer season.

Appearance Of Poison Oak Plant

It mostly affects people who come in contact with the leaves. Only 15%-20% of the population does not have an allergic reaction to the poison oak. Therefore, the majority of the population can get affected by poison oak rash when the skin comes in contact with it. The best way to prevent the rash is to identify and recognize the plant. It will help you stay away from it and avoid unnecessary complication associated with it.

What Is Poison Oak Rash?

The poison oak releases an oil known as urushiol. It can trigger the allergic contact dermatitis known as poison oak rash. Urushiol is an oily resin with a sticky texture. So, when your skin comes in contact with the leaves, stems or roots of poison oak, it attaches to your skin, pet’s fur, equipment, or clothes. Then, the allergen gets absorbed into your skin, triggering the allergic reaction. Even the dead roots, stems or leaves contain urushiol. Therefore, it can affect your skin when you burn and inhale the smoke from it. The same oil is also produced by poison ivy and poison sumac. You can see the rash appear between 12 hours or three days after coming in contact with the poison oak.

Indirect contact can also result in a poison oak rash. It occurs when your pets come in contact with the poison oak or your clothes carry the oily resin. Your pets may not have any reaction due to coming in contact with poison oak. In most cases, people do not get the rash after coming in contact with the poison oak for the very first time. The poison oak rash appears only after the second contact with oil. It is due to the fact that your immune system recognizes urushiol from the first occasion. Then, the body reacts to the next contact aggressively.

Symptoms Of Poison Oak Rash

Not everyone suffers from an allergic reaction due to coming in contact with poison oak. If you have an allergic reaction, you can see it appearing within 24 to 48 hours. The poison oak rash can appear on your skin within six days of coming in contact. The rash itself may not spread from one person to another. Therefore, the rash is not contagious in nature. It is due to the absence of urushiol oil in the rash/blister fluid. The rash may not spread from one part of the body to the other by scratching or touching. But, never touch or scratch the rash as it can become infected. You can see the rash appearing on the following areas of your skin:

  • Ankles
  • Neck
  • Wrists

So, the rash appears in areas of the body with thin skin. The rash becomes prominent after five or seven days. It can last up to twelve days or even a month. In some people, the poison oak lasts for more than a month. The following signs can indicate the presence of the rash:



It is the obvious evidence of the rash. It can result in itching, stinging, and minor skin irritation. You see the rash having a red color. It can become itchier as the rash progresses. So, the rash can become worse in the areas that have come in contact with the plant directly.



The contact with the poison oak plant can cause bumps on the skin, which eventually results in the formation of blisters. The blisters can break and ooze liquid causing pain and distress. It can dry in a few days. Therefore, it eventually forms a crust on your skin.

Serious Symptoms

In some people, the poison oak rash can trigger an allergic reaction that can prove fatal. You need to monitor for the signs closely. It is due to the fact that some people suffer a powerful reaction to the allergens. So, each time you get exposed to the allergen, your body reacts strongly. If you or people affected by the poison oak plant suffer from the serious signs, then contact the doctor immediately. Failure to get treatment at the right time may cause fatal complications. Therefore, look out for the signs of a severe allergic reaction, which includes:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty to breathe properly
  • Facial swelling
  • The rash covers more than 25% of your body
  • Swelling in the eyes
  • Rash on sensitive areas of the body (for example lips, eyes, face or genitals)
  • Presence of blisters with signs of infection (oozing of yellow fluid or pus from the blisters or blisters have a foul odor)
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The signs indicate serious problems that can threaten your life. So, you need to seek medical help immediately to prevent further complication. Allergic reactions have known to cause the death of people. So, you need to take it seriously. Visit the emergency section to ensure you get the necessary treatment to avoid serious issues.

Home Remedies For Poison Oak Rash

In the majority of the cases, the rash may not trigger serious complications. So, you can treat the issue easily at home. You can take care of the rash at home with some safe and simple techniques. The simple steps can prevent the rash from worsening and reduce its effects on your body. It is better to get the suggestion from a dermatologist to rule out any problems. Therefore, the following steps can help you manage the condition at home with ease.

Wash Your Body And Clothes

If you suspect the possibility of coming in contact with poison oak, you need to remove its presence from your body. The step is ideal when the rash has not appeared on the skin. Cleaning the skin and the clothes can prevent the rash from triggering serious complications. Therefore, wash your body and the clothes well with soap and water. The clothes can spread secondary rash as the urushiol oil can stick on the fabrics and other materials. Use lukewarm water to take a bath. When you wash your body, pay attention to the area of skin that has come in contact with the plant. Also, clean your fingernails and hands as it may the presence of the oily substance triggering the rash.

Cool/Lukewarm Showers

After the rashes appear, you may have the temptation to scratch it. The strong itching sensation can tempt you to scratch the rash with your fingernails. It can result in causing infection. The rash can also trigger blisters on your skin. So, you need to take cool showers to avoid infection. Using lukewarm water can also prevent the itching as well as an infection.

Cool Compress

Placing a wet and cool compress on the area affected by the poison oak rash can offer you relief from the itching. You just need to place the cool compress for fifteen to thirty minutes. So, placing the cool compress several times a day can provide you relief from itching.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Applying apple cider vinegar on the poison oak rash can relieve the itching. It has properties to remove the toxic substance from your skin. Therefore, you can get relief from the issue without much problem.

Baking Soda Paste

Make a paste with baking soda and water. Apply it on the affected skin with rashes or blisters. It can effectively alleviate the problem.

Over-The-Counter Creams/Lotions

Calamine Lotion
Source : Amazon.com

Applying over-the-counter remedies like hydrocortisone creams or calamine lotion can provide you relief from the itching temporarily. But, you need to use it the first few days of getting the rash.

Antihistamine Pills

You can take over-the-counter antihistamine pills to reduce the itching and other symptoms associated with the rash. But, take good care before taking the pills as it can cause drowsiness.

Getting Medical Treatment For Poison Oak Rash

When the symptoms do not improve within the next ten days of getting the rash, you need to seek medical help. You should acquire an appointment with the dermatologist. Your dermatologist can detect the problem and its severity to suggest the ideal solution. So, you have to see your doctor when you encounter the following situations:

  • The rash does not go away even after three to four weeks
  • Spreading of the rash to other sensitive areas like genitals or face
  • The appearance of lots of blisters
  • Worsening of other symptoms


Your doctor can suggest the use of steroid medication to ease the inflammation and itching associated with the rash. By using medications like prednisone, you can see the difference in your condition. So, you can take the medication in the following forms:

  • Steroid pills
  • Shot of steroid medication
  • Topical gels, creams or ointments

The oral or topical can offer you relief from the itching and other discomforts.


You may feel the urge to scratch the rash on your skin. The scratching can cause the blisters to break open. So, it can result in the development of bacterial infection. You need antibiotic treatment to overcome the infection. Therefore, the doctor can provide you with a prescription antibiotic to prevent the problem. You can take the antibiotic in the dosage suggested by the doctor in several forms. It is available in pills, creams or both to alleviate the problem.


Your doctor can prescribe antihistamines to ease the itchiness. The doctor can suggest the right dose of medication like diphenhydramine to reduce the itching due to poison oak rash. You can buy the medication over-the-counter. But, never take the medication without consulting your doctor. Only the doctor can suggest the right dose. The medication can make you drowsy. So, never take it before driving or operating heavy machinery.

Prevention Of Poison Oak Rash

You can prevent the appearance of the poison oak rash by following certain things. In the first place, avoiding the exposure to poison oak can prevent the occurrence of the rash. Another is to take necessary action quickly. It can prevent the adverse effects of the rash due to exposure to the poison oak plant. So, you can follow the easy advice to avoid the rash completely:

  • Know the area where the poison oak plants grow. You can prevent the nasty rash by avoiding the plant completely. It is necessary when you go camping or hiking. So, stay on the designated campsites or trails that are cleared of such plants. Check if the plants have returned after clearing it from the campsite or trails.
  • Try not to touch the plant or damage it as it releases oil that triggers an allergic reaction. You need to avoid any contact with the plant. You need to educate yourself about the poison oak and its appearance. Educate everyone in your friends and family circle. It will help lookout for the plant while spending time outside. If you do not recognize the plant, you have to look for the leaf-group pattern. The type of plant can affect the skin adversely.
  • You need to use protective clothing while removing the poison oak from a property. Use heavy gloves while pulling it outside. You can also use herbicides to destroy the plants completely. Always use full sleeve dress to protect the skin from contacting the plant.
  • Wash your skin and clothes thoroughly to avoid the rash from affecting your body badly. Cleaning your body as well as all the items that have come in contact with the plant can prevent or limit the allergic reaction. So, use soap and lukewarm water to clean the residue of the urushiol.
  • Mind your pets and stop them from wandering to the areas with poison oak growth. If your pets contact poison oak, then wash them thoroughly with special shampoo. It avoids the secondary transfer of the allergens to your skin.
  • Never burn the leaves that look like poison oak. As burning the leaves can release the oil, you can suffer from the respiratory issue. It can also result in internal damage. Therefore, never burn the leaves without knowing the type of leaf.


The urushiol oil can spread to other parts of the skin. It is contagious in nature. Therefore, the poison oak rash can trigger an allergic reaction on your skin by just touching it. It can also cause the rash with the secondary contact like spreading from clothes or objects that come in contact with the plant. The burning of poison oak not only triggers the rash but also cause lung irritation or respiratory problems. Therefore, you need to seek immediate medical treatment when you expose yourself to burning poison oak smoke. Though it may not trigger life-threatening complication, some people can face drastic reaction. So, timely medical help can provide relief. Take good care and seek medical help if necessary to overcome the poison oak rash.

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