What are the complications from poison oak?

An individual who is exposed to poison oak can lead to undesirable symptoms among those who are sensitive to it but the culprit is the oil produced by the plant. It is important to note that poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac produce urushiol once they are broken. Due to the potential to trigger an allergic reaction among highly sensitive individuals, it is important to wear proper clothing while outdoors as well as observing proper prevention measures.

Exposure to urushiol arises through direct contact with the shrub or indirectly by getting in contact with urushiol on tools, clothing, pet or other objects. In most cases, an allergic reaction typically resolves in a span of two weeks. There are complications that can arise that are rare but can be serious. It is important that you are well aware of these complications so that you know what to do. If you want to be prepared, you will surely benefit by enrolling in a first aid course today.

Severe allergic reaction

Exposure to poison oak can cause allergic contact dermatitis which is characterized by severe itchiness, swelling and redness along with blistered skin. The reaction can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the amount of contact with the urushiol oil, sensitivity of the individual and the areas of skin affected.

Poison oak

The individual who is suffering from breathing difficulty after being exposed to smoke that contains urushiol requires immediate medical care.

Mild to moderate reactions can be managed at home but if it is widespread or a serious reaction, it would require prescription corticosteroids. In case the face, genitals or face are involved, these areas would require treatment for severe swelling or edema.

Respiratory distress

Individuals who are exposed to smoke from burning poison oak, especially firefighters can suffer from severe irritation in the lungs. The individual who is suffering from breathing difficulty after being exposed to smoke that contains urushiol requires immediate medical care.


Individuals who scratch their skin after being exposed to poison oak face a risk for developing a secondary bacterial infection. It is important to note that the organisms beneath the fingernails can contaminate the open skin, resulting to an infection.

Poison oak rash can itch intensely, thus treatment should focus on relieving the irritation as much as possible. You can manage the itchiness and prevent infection by allowing the individual to take a bath in cool water, apply a cool compress, use over-the-counter corticosteroid creams as well as antihistamines as well as keeping the fingernails of the individual short and clean at all times.

In case these remedies could not manage the itchiness, a doctor will prescribe stronger medications to be taken by mouth or applied on the skin. If the individual develops symptoms of an infection including drainage from blisters, pus, odor, increased pain or fever, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics.


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