Camping during the summer is a part of almost every American Household. It offers a chance to bond with your friends, teaching the kids about nature, and reigniting old bonds in a fun way. But camping in the wilderness is not without its fair share of risks.
As an avid camper, you need to think about the campsites and take proper protection against a variety of factors like wild animals, poisonous leaves, etc. Poison ivy and poison oak are two such factors that you need to be prepared to face out in the wild.
The first step to preventing rashes from these plants is identifying them. That is why, in this article, we will give you a quick rundown of the major differences between poison ivy and poison oak so that you can have a more enjoyable camping experience.
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Identifying the Differences
The trouble with poison ivy and poison oak are they look incredibly non-threatening. These low-profile plants can be hard to identify in the wilderness, and differentiating them from each other or other bush or shrubbery can be quite tricky. Here are a few common characters that these plants share with each other:
- Both of them grow as a vine or bush.
- They do not have any thorns.
- Leaves grow in different sizes.
- They almost always have a cluster of three leaves.
With that said, a keen eye can catch a few critical details that can help differentiate between the two. For instance, the vines that grow from poison ivy plants are hairy or fuzzy. Furthermore, the leaves in poison ivy have the shape of an almond.
On the other hand, poison oak leaves look similar to oak leaves, and the color of the leaves is also a bit duller or faded. The leaflets in this plant are usually a lot hairier than that of poison oak. Prolonged touch with these leaflets is what causes the rashes from poison oak.
Why Are These Plants Poisonous?
The element responsible for the poisonous nature of these plants is a toxic oil known as Urushiol. This oil is present in the leaves and stems of both poison ivy and poison oak, and once your skin comes in contact with this oil, you can develop red itchy rashes on that part of the skin.
To make matters even worse, you do not necessarily have to come in direct contact with these plants for you to develop the rash. Urushiol can stick to things like your tools, clothes, or even pet furs that can transmit the rash to your skin. Thankfully, pets do not react to the oil and will not develop rashes, but you need to be careful when handling them if you want to avoid it yourself.
Treating the Rashes
Unfortunately, there is no treatment readily available for reversing the effects of poison ivy and poison oak. If you did develop the rashes, you have to mostly power through the discomfort. However, there are ways to make the experience a bit more bearable.
For instance, if you come in contact with urushiol, the first thing you want to do is take off your clothes and wash them thoroughly. That way, you will be able to prevent the spread of the oil to other persons. The last thing you want is for the rashes to spread to your kids or other family members.
You also want to wash your skin with cool water and soap. This would help rinse out urushiol from your skin and reduce the chances of rash.
But if it is too late and you already have the rash, you can try a couple of medicinal treatments to help make the itch easier for you. Products like OTC hydrocortisone topical cream and Calamine lotion can help a lot with the itching. If your skin is especially sensitive and you develop an infection, antibiotic ointment or medication can also help.
You can also try home remedies such as aloe vera gel or cucumber slices to reduce the itchiness. Thankfully home products are pretty effective against these rashes and can help you out if you do not have any medicinal ointments ready at your home.
The important thing is to keep your skin hydrated if you develop a rash. It would be best to avoid itching since it can transmit the toxin to different parts of your skin.
Despite being two different plants, poison ivy and poison oak contain the same toxic element. As a result, the symptoms that you develop from them are also often similar. Although these plants are not deadly, they can still ruin your day out in the wild.
However, with our guide, you should now have no trouble identifying the plants in the wilderness. We hope you enjoyed the article and found it helpful in your camping trip.