Poison oak and poison ivy are almost indistinguishable. Typically, which you have been infected by is determined by geographical location. Poison ivy tends to be more prevalant farther east, while poison oak tends to reside farther west.
Otherwise, they are extremely similar. They share the same family and genus, diverging only on species. Both are treated basically the same way and neither are contagious.
Both poison ivy and poison oak cause an itchy rash – the result of an allergic reaction to urushiol, an oil found in all parts of the plants. Exposure of the oil can occur from touching the plants with the skin, clothing or shoes, pet or animals, or through the smoke of burning plants. The itchy rash from poison ivy and oak usually occurs within 24-72 hours. The rash, which starts out as red bumps and later develops into blisters, can appear anywhere on the body and in any form or pattern. Some people claim that a poison oak reaction is worse than poison ivy, but they typically produce the same effects.
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