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Urushiol
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Dermatology
Anacardiaceae

Questions and Answers 

Why arent all people sensitive?
People vary in their sensitivity to poison-oak just like they vary in height and weight.

Why arent animals sensitive?
Actually, there are two answers to that question. One answer is that different species vary in their sensitivity, just like people differ from each other. Goats are specialized to eat terrible stuff; they relish poison-oak, but they also ate the tarpaper on my fathers chicken coops! Pack rats use poison-oak as a defense against other animals; they build nests out of the stems. Deer sometimes eat a few branch tips in late winter, but horses ignore the plant. Guinea pigs eat it if they have nothing else to eat; but then they vomit blood, convulse and die.

The other answer is hair. For example, guinea pigs seldom react to urushiol painted on their skin; but shave and lightly sandpaper them and they react exactly like people do. And, people get rashes worst where they have the least hair.

 

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