Poison Oak Rash: What It Looks Like & How To Treat It

Poison Oak Rash effect on the skin.

Getting a poison oak rash is unpleasant to say the least. It causes blistering and redness. An allergic reaction to poison oak can be uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. Identifying the rash that comes with poison oak can help you seek treatment faster when you know you have contacted this dangerous plant.

This post will talk about what poison oak rash looks like and the common symptoms so you can treat yourself or your loved ones quickly and effectively. Let's begin!

What does poison oak rash look like

Poison oak is a shrub with smooth green leaves and white or yellow flowers growing in western North America. It grows as an evergreen shrub or vine in both full sun or partial shade, often along the edges of trails, roads, and paths. The plants are easy to spot because their leaves turn crimson red in fall before dropping off in winter. Its leaves contain an oil called urushiol that causes a rash when it comes in contact with skin. It is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), the rash may take 2–3 weeks to appear if the person has never experienced it before. But, a person who has had poison oak rash in the past will likely get the current one within 4–48 hours of contact. The rash from poison oak often appears as raised red bumps with blisters on the skin. These bumps can break open and ooze fluid.

The size and number of these bumps vary depending on how much exposure you had to the plant. Other factors to consider are the ability of your immune system to fight infection, your health, and whether you had an existing skin condition before exposure.

You may also notice scabs that form over the bumps when they dry up. After several weeks, these scabs fall off and leave behind discolored skin and may take months to heal completely.

Causes of poison oak rash

The most common cause of poison oak rash is contact with the plant. But there are other causes of poison oak that we need to be aware of to take precautions. Other causes of poison oak rash include:

  1. Inhaling dust particles that contain urushiol. This can happen if you work where poison oak grows or breathe in dust from a recently mowed lawn with urushiol on the blades of grass. Urushiol is a very sticky substance and can remain active for months, or even years, after it comes in contact with something.
  2. Contact with certain animals such as horses, cattle, dogs, and cats with urushiol on their skin or fur. After coming into contact with these animals, there's a possibility that you can pick up the urushiol.
  3. Contact with another person who has come into contact with poison oak and has unbonded urushiol on their skin. It may be transferred from another person's clothing, skin or hair that has been contaminated by urushiol and then touches their skin.

Stages of poison oak rash

Stage 1

The rash appears as raised and red bumps on the skin during the first stage. These bumps eventually develop into blisters that contain clear fluid. The rash may be itchy and painful. This phase usually lasts three to five days.

Stage 2

The blisters burst and ooze with a yellow or clear liquid in this phase. This fluid can cause raw skin around the blisters if it is not washed off quickly enough after exposure to sunlight or heat. The rash may also spread beyond its original location, causing symptoms in other areas of your body. This stage usually lasts two to four weeks. Still, it can last longer if you do not treat it correctly or have been exposed multiple times over a long period without treatment.

Stage 3

In this final phase of poison oak rash, the blisters dry up and turn brown or yellowish-brown. They may crack and peel off your skin, leaving behind new skin that is pink and sometimes scaly looking.

How to treat poison oak rash?

Treating poison oak rashes is crucial because if we mistakenly use harmful chemicals, it will lead to infection. You can use any of these treatments to avoid infection:

Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser is an over-the-counter cleanser that removes the rash-causing oil from your skin. It eliminates any urushiol oil left on your skin, so you don't spread it elsewhere. It can be used on skin as well as other surfaces such as tools, clothing, equipment and your pet’s fur.

Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub contains micro-fine scrubbing beads to remove urushiol effectively. Many people keep this in the shower as part of the daily cleanup routine.

If you have a rash and it is beginning to cause itching and pain, treat the area with Calagel Anti-itch Gel to relieve the symptoms.

If your symptoms are severe, or if your rash is hot, inflamed, has red streaks, or any other signs of possible infection, be sure to consult a doctor immediately.

Poison oak is a familiar outdoor hazard that affects many hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts. But, not all people have immediate symptoms after being exposed to this plant. Both children and adults can be affected by poison oak exposure, so knowing how to spot the rash early is key in preventing further problems. Hopefully this post will help you determine if your rash is indeed poison oak and how to seek treatment for it. If you suspect you have come into contact with poison oak, don't panic; if caught early enough, it's treatable. To avoid serious complications, you need to be ready with Tecnu treatments anytime. For more information, visit us now!