RWJUH and Rutgers University Allergist Warns Poison Ivy and Skin Rashes Often Flare During Summer

Thursday, August 01, 2013

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Summer is a common time for skin allergies to flare, especially those resulting from poison ivy, in addition to eczema (atopic dermatitis) and hives (urticaria).
High rainfall, humidity and temperatures this summer combined with increased carbon dioxide concentrations has led to “exceedingly potent” growth of poison ivy-related plants this year, according to Leonard Bielory, MD, an allergy specialist with the Rutgers Center of Environmental Prediction at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and attending physician at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJ).
“When picnicking or hiking though our parks this summer beware of certain plants, especially some trees,” Dr. Bielory cautions. “Many trees have leaves that are actually part of the (allergenic plant) vines that have embraced them.”
According to Bielory, some climate change studies revealed an increase in the oily allergen produced by poison ivy plants when exposed to increased carbon dioxide concentration such as those observed in New Jersey’s climate.
Bielory notes that some of these highly allergenic plant vines are extremely large and clearly noticeable.“Poison oak, sumac or ivy can all lead to skin rashes,” he explains. “Toxicodendron (Rhus) dermatitis (poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac) is caused by urushiol, which is found in the saps of this plant family.” Poison oak and sumac are more common in the southeastern portion of the United States.
Dr. Bielory offers this helpful tip to stay safe and avoid these poisonous plant vines: "Leaves of three, let them be."
He adds, “Some individuals are sensitive to the point that their conditions can flare-up when in contact with grass or other plants. For protection, wear long pants and long sleeves, if outdoor plants cause a reaction.”
In regard to eczema and hives, Dr. Bielory recommends these steps reduce symptoms or avoid them all together:
• Beware of the sun. Hives can be triggered by heat or sweat. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid becoming too hot and wear sunscreen.

• Be prepared. Eczema can worsen in the summer, especially with excess sweating. Have a skin care treatment plan. This may include having mild bathing products on hand.
Leonard Bielory, M.D., a board certified specialist in allergy and immunology with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and faculty at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey has been leading multiple studies as part of his federal research funding to examine the impact of Climate Change on Allergic Airway Disease.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 600-bed academic medical center and the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care, from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation; cancer care; and women’s and children’s care, including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (

The hospital is a Level I Trauma Center and serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety. It ranks among “America’s Best Hospitals,” according to U.S.News & World Report’s 2012 survey; it is the sixth consecutive year that RWJUH has achieved this prestigious ranking. Also in 2012, U.S.News & World Report ranked BMSCH among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH among the nation's best comprehensive cancer centers. The Leapfrog Group rated RWJUH among the 50 exceptional U.S. hospitals, as published in Consumers Digest, and has given the hospital an “A” grade for safety and quality. Harvard University researchers, in a study commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund, identified RWJUH as one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for clinical quality. RWJUH is a four-time recipient of the prestigious Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence


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