It’s spring out there and as everything blossoms and starts dumping pollen, you might find yourself sneezing up a storm. Seasonal allergies tend to be a real issue due to the number of plants causing allergic reactions. While you’re wiping that nose and dabbing those watery eyes, you might want to also watch out for another irritating bit of greenery.

Poison ivy is also an early bloomer and if you’re out in the woods you might be surprised to notice just how lush it is right now. From a tiny three-leaved sprig bursting through the soil to a sprawling or climbing vine reaching high into the treetops, poison ivy grows wonderfully in our dry springtime weather.

Chock full of an oily resin, urushiol, it is the culprit causing all the misery for those unfortunate enough to brush up to this noxious plant. The resin is found throughout the plant including in the leaves, stems and roots, so be careful doing yard work. Another “no-no” is tossing a batch of poison ivy into a burn pile or campfire. Inhaling the smoke from burning poison ivy can be extremely irritating to your lungs and necessitate a trip to the emergency room.

If you’ve never experienced the rash that develops after skin contact with poison ivy, count yourself lucky. Potentially lasting for weeks, the plant’s oils cause redness, swelling and watery blisters that itch miserably. For this reason, it is always a really smart idea to wash up well with soap and water if you have potentially come into contact with the plant. If you have pets that run freely, keep in mind that they may encounter the vine or plants and fur to skin contact may transfer the oils onto you.

Another common way to transmit poison ivy to your skin is from your hiking shoes. If you’ve walked through poison ivy, as you take off your shoes you may get the resin on your hands. Be sure to wash thoroughly to prevent possibly spreading the oil to other areas of your skin, causing a reaction.

While most cases of poison ivy are just a couple weeks of misery, it can be serious if you scratch and the rash gets infected, the rash is widespread or covers sensitive areas such as your face or nether regions from outdoor primitive potty breaks. Many times, the oil is absorbed in varying quantities, making it seem like the rash just keeps spreading as your skin reacts over time.

Various anti-itch creams and cool baths will help, but it just takes time to dry out the rash. For that reason, it’s especially important to make sure any shoes, clothing, camping, or hiking equipment possibly contaminated is thoroughly washed to remove the oil. If you don’t, you risk re-exposing yourself to another round of rashes and a few more weeks of scratching.

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