Leaves of three, let it be

How to avoid and treat poison oak

If you’ve spent any amount of time exploring Bidwell Park, you’ve likely come into contact with poison oak. And if you’re part of the 10 percent to 15 percent of the population who are extremely allergic, you’re probably accustomed to covering up head to toe, then burning everything, after a gnarly bushwhacking session. Take heed! The California Poison Control System warns of an extended poison oak season continuing through the fall due to warm weather. Some bits of wisdom:

• Know what to look for—the dense, leafy shrub has glossy leaves in sets of three, is common throughout the valley and the foothills, and also can grow as a vine.

• Stay on the trail or wear boots, gloves and long pants when hiking through overgrowth.

• If you’re exposed to poison oak, wash the area thoroughly with water as soon as possible … then wash again for good measure. (We’ve found Tecnu to be helpful in removing the plant’s oil.)

• If rashes appear, prepare for a couple weeks of misery, which can be partially relieved with calamine lotion, hydrocortisone and antihistamines. See a doctor for extreme cases.