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Beware of the dangers of poison oak

June 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're planning on hiking this summer beware of poison oak.Ethan Suaste and his cousin are heading out for a hike in Eaton Canyon, but they're not quite prepared.

"You need water and hiking shoes. That's it I guess," said Ethan.

Ethan needs a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and long pants, because in the hiking area it's easy to get tangled in poison oak.

"We actually have that all around here. It's an endemic area, meaning that it's very commonly found," said dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi.

Dr. Chi points out poison oak growing right along the trail.

"'Leaves of three, let them be.' If you see a plant with three leaves coming off of it you need to leave that alone. Stay far away from that," said Dr. Chi.

It can cause quite an infection.

"So you'll see little blisters in a row with redness all around it. And it's very, very itchy," said Dr. Chi.

"Someone who is in contact with a poisonous plant usually would have up to about 30 minutes to thoroughly wash with soap and warm water," said Jeff Hilty, a safety expert.

Hilty says you can use alcohol if you don't have water.

"Once the outbreak occurs, it's pretty much a matter then of treating the symptoms," said Hilty.

Dr. Chi says the best way to treat poison oak is with something many of us have in our fridge.

"You can mix baking soda with water and apply that. That will really calm down the rash," said Dr. Chi.

You can also use cortizone cream.

There's another kind of dangerous blistering that's caused by the sun.

"You want to avoid all kinds of sunburn, but blistering sunburns are the worst kind because that can cause skin cancer," said Dr. Chi.

Dr. Chi recommends pure aloe vera to treat sunburns, but if you get a fever or infection, get to a doctor.

"You can become constitutionally ill, where you can get fevers and chills. And because you're blistering and losing a lot of heat through your skin and fluid, you can actually become dehydrated," said Dr. Chi.

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