Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
Poison ivy and poison oak are plants that produce allergic reactions in most people. The plants produce an oil that, when it gets on the skin, causes an itchy rash. Both poison ivy and poison oak are highly contagious and can be spread by skin-to-skin contact and also sharing clothes, bedding, and other items. Furthermore, someone suffering from poison ivy or poison oak can cause a small outbreak on their body to develop into a large outbreak by touching the rash and then touching other parts of their body.
It is important to note that poison oak has nothing to do with the oak tree itself. Poison oak is named as such because its leaves resemble that of an oak tree. Poison oak is most common in the Western United States while poison ivy can be found just about everywhere in the United States, except the desert Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaii, which are also clear of poison oak. In the north, the west, and around the Great Lakes, poison ivy grows as a shrub while elsewhere it grows as a vine.
Poison ivy and poison oak can be contracted by touching the plants, touching items like clothing and shoes which came into contact with the plants, or by inhaling the smoke of the plants when they are burned. Inhaling the smoke of burning poison ivy and poison oak plants can cause throat swelling and be very dangerous. Additionally, poison ivy or oak infections that spread to the genitals, the eyes, and the inside of the mouth are serious conditions and should be examined by a medical professional.
Most cases of poison ivy and poison oak clear up in a few days to a week if the patient can keep from scratching or spreading the rash. Board-certified dermatologists like those at Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery can help patients properly identify poison ivy and poison oak infections and chart a course of treatment appropriate to the extent of the infection. With any rash, it is important to see a medical professional as soon as possible to assure accurate diagnosis and treatment.