Season of the rash

Don’t scratch.

With long summer days spent hiking in the park and lazing by the creek comes poison oak—it’s everywhere! The cursed shrub’s branches reach out into trails and graze the water’s edge, its wicked vines unfurling where you least expect it. Look for glossy, green scalloped leaves in clusters of three, thorny stems and light green berries. If you do come in contact with it, wash skin and clothes with soap and water ASAP. An oily substance on the leaves and stem called urushiol carries the “poison,” and it’s highly contagious. An allergic reaction will produce an itchy, red rash with bumps that blister and ooze. Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion can ease the itch, and an oatmeal bath can help with inflammation. Most rashes will heal in five to 12 days, but it can last as long as a month or more, so keep your eyes peeled and your feet on the trail.