There are two common types of Poison Oak in the U.S. -- Eastern and Western Poison Oak. Both contain Urushiol - the oily compound responsible for the horrible skin reactions we all fear.
Western Poison Oak is typically along the western coastline, below 5,000 feet of elevation. Here on the California Central Coast, we have lots of Poison Oak groves, especially in shady damp areas and northern slopes. It is abundant in the Redwood and Oak forests to the creekside meadows up and down the California coastline.
Eastern Poison Oak grows in the Southern US in varied terrain, and often has 6" hairy leaflets. It can be found in both wet and dry locations, forests to sandy areas.
Poison Ivy is in nearly every state in the U.S. California, Alaska, and Hawaii are the only states without it. As with Poison Oak, Urushiol is the compound responsible for the allergic reaction that comes as a result of touching the Poison Ivy plant.
Best Practices Recap
Poison Oak and Ivy can ruin your life for a few weeks if you come in contact. Here are some ways to prevent a tough few weeks:
1. Learn to identify the plants containing Urushiol, and try your best to avoid them. But we all know we're going to be in them, so here are your next steps.
2. When you're shredding a trail that has Urushiol plants, your best bet is to use wipes and/or wash on all exposed skin asap. We use Wipes on the trail and wash as soon as possible after getting back to town. The sooner you get the Urushiol off of your skin, the better your chances at avoiding a reaction.
3. Use friction and Scrub all areas that may have Urushiol contact when using wipes and wash. It only takes a tiny amount of the oil to cause a reaction, so meticulously scrub each bit of exposed skin. Use our wash with a washcloth to remove all the Urushiol from your skin.
4. Remove and wash clothes that may have been in contact with Urushiol. This also means anything that you might have touched after exposure like your car seat, center console or steering wheel, leaning against your kitchen counter, or even laying on your couch for a quick minute. All of this is a recipe for Poison Oak or Ivy rashes showing up for weeks to come while you're trying to figure out where the Urushiol could be.