Thousands of California workers seek medical treatment for poison oak dermatitis every year. While some individuals are less susceptible than others, no one is completely immune. There are some simple things you can do to prevent or minimize the unpleasant often-disabling effects of poison oak exposure. Learn to recognize, avoid, and prevent exposure, and get rid of it when possible.
Recognize - The poison oak leaf looks like a miniature oak leaf, a triple leaf pattern leading off one stem with prominent veins and a shiny surface. In some regions the leaves remain green during the entire time they are on the stem. In other areas the leaves change to various colors with the changing seasons. After the leaves fall off, the bare wood is also dangerous and so are the roots. It can grow in the form of vines, trailing shrubs, or upright woody shrubs. It may flourish in the deep woods where soil moisture is plentiful or it may be found in very dry soil on the most exposed hillsides.
Avoid - Stay away from any vegetation that you suspect may be poison oak. Avoid contact with anything that touched it, whether animal, clothing or tools.
Prevent - Sometimes you have to enter or work in areas where there is poison oak. When this is necessary, certain precautions can be taken:
No part of the plant should ever be eaten. It is a violent irritant and poisonous. It should never be destroyed by burning. Inhalation of the smoke can be catastrophic. Destroy poison oak by using an approved vegetation spray to eradicate it.