MEDFORD, Ore. – Doctors warn that the region’s wildfires is burning poison oak, and that the plant can still have negative health effects when traveling through the air.
While touching poison oak usually causes a rash or irritation, breathing in the chemicals from the burning plant can also have health effects. Doctors at Valley Immediate Care said the chemicals from the poison oak can be carried through the air, and can still cause skin irritation when it comes in contact with a person’s skin. Breathing in the chemicals can cause lung inflammation and coughing, but it will not cause a rash like what happens to skin.
“You’re not getting the poison oak reaction in the lungs because of the allergic reaction, it’s because it’s a chemical irritant, and you’re inhaling burning objects,” said Dr. Mona McArdle.
McArdle said people living or working closer to the fire would be more likely to feel some effects.