Poison oak poisoning

Poison oak poisoning occurs from accidental physical exposure to the leaves or other parts of poison oak. Poison oak is defined by its set of 3 leaves in every stem/stalk. It can grow into a shrub or spread over a wide area as a climbing/spreading vine.

If exposed to the plant, particularly to urushiol, it triggers itchy and painful skin rashes due to an allergic response of the body. In addition, burning the plant can trigger the release of the toxin in smoke. If inhaled, it can trigger the symptoms.

What are the indications?

The indications tend to vary from one individual to another. It might be minor in some but severe in others depending on the degree of exposure and specific reactions.

The usual signs of poison oak poisoning might include:

  • Itchiness at the site of contact that can be severe

    The itchy sensation on the affected site can spread to other parts of the body.

  • The itchy sensation on the affected site can spread to other parts of the body
  • Skin rashes that are striped or striated in pattern
  • Formation of reddened skin rashes with irritation, burning and pain.
  • After some time, the rashes turn into blisters filled with fluid where some can be large enough. The rashes only form on areas exposed to the plant and do not spread even if the blisters break open.
  • Inhalation of smoke from a burning plant can trigger chest pain or tightness and severe respiratory difficulty.
  • If a severe reaction or anaphylaxis occurs, it can lead to difficulty breathing, weak pulse and shock.

The symptoms generally arise within 1-3 days after exposure to poison oak.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on poison oak poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and appropriate first aid care to perform, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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