Though it might seem hard to imagine another problem that can be attributed to the notorious El Nino, here's one you may not have heard yet:

"This has been one very bad year for poison ivy," said Kathlene Cowan, information systems manager for Tec Laboratories, an Albany, Ore., manufacturer of products designed to alleviate skin irritations. "Because of all the rains we've had this year, we are now seeing the poison ivy season extending into the fall."Cowan said the season for poison ivy generally peaked in the spring and started to wane by July. This year, however, she said, individuals sensitive to the plant could still be bumping into it as they rake leaves and drag them where the plant may still be growing. "About three out of four people are allergic to poison ivy," she said.

Lee McGoodwin, managing director of the Oklahoma Poison Control Center in Oklahoma City, said the rash that develops after contact with poison ivy is an allergic reaction to an oily substance - urushiol - contained in the leaves and stems.

One thing frequently not taken into consideration, Mc-Good-win said, is that urushiol can remain on clothing, tools and pets - and retain its potency - for up to a year unless it is washed off. Moreover, she said, those who come in contact with the substance typically do not exhibit symptoms for up to a week. As a result, she said, there is a good chance that people who get poison ivy will not know when or where they came in contact with the oil.

"It's generally impossible to wash it off with ordinary soap and water after 10 or 15 minutes," McGoodwin said.

But it's not altogether impossible. "That's what Technu is for," said Cowan.

Seemingly, the easiest way to avoid poison ivy is to recognize it and stay away from it.