It may sound simple, but the best way to prevent getting a poison ivy, oak or sumac rash is basically simple prevention: avoid contact with the plants -- or even ones you think might be the poisonous ones. Learn about these types of plants and how they may look different depending on season, growing conditions, etc.
More prevention tips:
Poison oak's leaves grow as a vine or shrub and look like oak leaves with three leaflets -- but to confuse matters, they can contain up to seven leaflets per group. This plant is most common in the western United States, but does occasionally pop up on the East Coast as well as the Midwest.
Poison sumac grows like a shrub or small tree and has seven to thirteen leaflets per leaf stem. Its leaves have smooth edges and pointed tips, and the plants are found in swampy areas in the Southeast along with wet, wooded areas in the northern part of the states.
Poison ivy is found throughout the United States except along the west coast. It grows as a climbing or low-spreading vine that sprawls through grass in the eastern US, though in the northern part of the country (as well as Canada and the Great Lakes region) it grows more like a shrub. This plant usually has three broad, pointed leaves or leaflets -- but, like poison oak, it can have more.
Poison ivy changes color with the seasons: red in the springtime, green during the summer, and typical autumnal browns and yellows during the fall.
If you, friends or family are just itching to go hiking or camping, at least be sure that everyone knows how to recognize and avoid poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. As the saying goes: "Leaves of three, let it be."
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