Not all Tree leaves are Tree leaves –“Leaflets 3 – Let it be”; Poison Ivy and Summertime Skin Rashes

 The summer with the annual cicadas and the 17 year cicadas and the opening of parks during the pandemic attracts many to the parks and hiking trails. With increasing outdoor activity comes a common problem with skin allergies especially to poison ivy, but this is in addition to atopic dermatitis (eczema) and urticaria (hives). The outdoors is fraught with concerns with mosquitoes, ragweed pollen and poison ivy.

This summer has had incredibly high humidity, temperature and rain along with slight increases in carbon dioxide concentrations ha provided an excellent culture medium for the expansion and the production of the potency for poison ivy plants. This summer has been an exceptionally ”strong one” according to Dr. Bielory. Picnicking or hiking though our parks this summer beware of certain plants. Especially some trees! Many trees have leaves that are actually part of the vines that has embraced them. Some studies on climate change have demonstrated the increase in the oily allergen produced by poison ivy plants when exposed to increased CO2 concentration such as those seen with climate in New Jersey. Some of the vines are extremely large and are clearly noticeable.

Poison oak, sumac or ivy can all lead to skin rashes. Toxicodendron (Rhus) dermatitis (poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac) is caused by urushiol, which is found in the saps of this plant family. There is a simple reminder to stay safe: "Leaves of three, let them be." The leaves start out green, but they can turn red or brown. Even dead plants can cause the rash. Some people are sensitive to the point that their conditions can flare-up when in contact with grass or other plants.