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How to Avoid Poison Oak

  • 1). Learn to identify habitats in which poison oak is likely to be found. Poison oak is found below 5,000 feet in moist ravines, canyons and hilltops without much sunlight.

  • 2). Learn to identify the leaves of poison oak. The basic rule, "leaves of three, let it be," refers to the three leaflets on the leaves of the poison oak shrub (and the more uncommon vine). Hair can be found on the shrub's fruit, trunk and leaves.

  • 3). Wear a pre-exposure armor lotion on exposed parts of the body to minimize the effects of poison oak should contact occur.

  • 4). Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover exposed skin when hiking in an area populated by poison oak.

  • 5). Wear socks and hiking boots to protect ankles and feet.

  • 6). Wash hands and exposed skin with soap and water immediately following contact, or use a special soap formulated to wash resins of poison oak from skin and clothing. Such soaps are available in sporting goods stores and outdoor equipment stores.

  • 7). Wash clothes and shoelaces with a mild soap and dry them in the sun if you make contact with poison oak.

  • 8). Wash clothes and shoelaces and dry them in a clothes dryer immediately following a hike in an area populated with poison oak, even if you don't believe you had any contact with the plant.

  • 9). Shower and wash your hair thoroughly after being in an area where poison oak is present, even if you don't believe you had any contact with the plant.

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