Leaves of Three, Let it Be

If you spend any time outdoors, it’s a good idea to know what poison oak looks like. The plant, which causes an itchy and painful rash when urushiol oil comes into contact with skin, grows all over Southern California up to about 5,000 feet. The oils can remain on clothing, pet’s fur, bike grips, and elsewhere, for weeks or even months.
The rash typically appears between 24 and 72 hours.

If exposed to poison oak, wash with soap and water immediately, or use alcohol wipes if you can’t get to a sink or shower right away. Wash all clothing, including cycling gloves, and wipe down your bike grips, shifters, and brake levers with rubbing alcohol to remove the oils. If your pet touches the plants, be sure to give them a bath (wear gloves) to remove oils from their fur.

The rash can last up to three weeks. Avoid scratching to prevent scarring and infection, and use Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to soothe the itch. Other over-the-counter products like Tecnu scrub and itch-relief gels may also help control pain and itching. Visit your doctor if you have severe symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes, widespread rash over the entire body, rash near eyes, and fever.

Only about 15 percent of people are resistant to urushiol — so be sure to avoid the plant to be safe!