Allergist and Immunologist Questions Poison Oak

How harmful is poison oak when contacted?

I have read a lot about the poison oak and how it can cause fatal allergies in certain people. What is poison oak and how harmful is it? Does it affect everyone when contacted or only certain people with some allergies?

2 Answers

The majority of the people will react to poison oak, and this is a good indicator that their immune system is working - it is not abnormal. Fatalities have not been reported with poison oak, poison ivy, or others.
Most people who are allergic to poison oak, ivy, or sumac can be quickly treated with topical steroid creams or oral steroids, if more severe. These are all plants which have a similar chemical on their surface. Not everyone is sensitive to these plants and some are never bothered. Fatalities would be extremely rare, unless untreated.
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