How to Recognize & Avoid Poison Ivy

Life is not always a walk in the woods, but when it is, make sure you don’t step in the poison ivy.


  • Step 1: Memorize this saying Before you go meandering among the woodland creatures, memorize this saying: 'Leaves of three don’t touch me.' This pretty much says everything you need to know about avoiding poison ivy.
  • TIP: If you know you’re going to be in an area with poison ivy, carry a poison ivy-specific cleanser, like Tecnu or Zanfel, to immediately wash off the oil should you come into contact with the plant. This can help avoid or greatly reduce an outbreak.
  • Step 2: Recognize “leaves of three” Know what 'leaves of three' look like. Poison ivy’s compound leaf is made of two pointed leaves of the same size directly across from each other. The middle leaf will have a slightly longer stalk and come at the end of the stem.
  • Step 3: Beware both a bush and a vine Be aware that poison ivy can grow as a bush or a vine.
  • TIP: Poison ivy can come in different colors, too, depending on the time of year and stage of the plant’s life. Besides green, it can also be red, yellow, or orange.
  • Step 4: Notice the leaf’s texture Notice the texture of the leaf. If it’s furry, it’s not poison ivy. If it’s smooth, be careful. The edges of the leaf can be either smooth or have teeth.
  • Step 5: Avoid everything that resembles poison ivy Since poison ivy can take many shapes and forms, the best idea is to avoid anything that has three leaves. Why take a chance?
  • Step 6: Wear long pants and sleeves No matter how vigilant you plan to be, wear long pants and long sleeves if you’re walking through bushes and vines.
  • TIP: Don’t tromp. When the leaf or stem of the poison ivy plant breaks, it releases urushiol, the oil that causes the allergic reactions.
  • Step 7: Exercise caution with pets or clothing You can be exposed to poison ivy sap via your clothing or pets. So be careful with anything you know has been rolling around in the bushes.
  • Step 8: Avoid mowing or burning poison ivy Avoid mowing or burning poison ivy. Both methods of destroying the plants can get sap on your skin or into your lungs.
  • FACT: Eighty percent of the population is allergic, and the twenty percent who aren't can become allergic at any time without warning.

You Will Need

  • Sharp eyes
  • Long sleeves and pants
  • A poison ivy-specific cleanser

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