By Robin Rieger
MEDFORD, NJ (CBS) – “Leaves of three, let them be.”
That’s the rhyme attached to poison ivy, and it warrants heeding–especially this summer.
“The heat and humidity and also total lack of winter that we had without the frost–that has really caused poison ivy just to become more robust,” said Burlington County naturalist Jennifer Bulava.
She says that since poison ivy plants are taller and leaves are bigger this summer, contact with it is more likely. She wants people to be able to recognize the three leafed plant and stay away.
“Sometimes they have toothed edges, sometimes they’re smooth,” Bulava explains.
That vine on a tree looks hairy and also has the grouping of three leaves that have urushiol oil on them. If you touch it and are allergic, your skin will let you know.
“It’s one of the itchiest skins disorders there are,” says Dr. Andrea Buck.
Buck is the dermatologist from Medford who’s been treating me for the poison ivy I got about two weeks ago.
“Basically, when the oil touches your skin, in about 48 hours you will develop redness, swelling…eventually, it will develop blisters,” Buck explains.
The blisters are usually in a linear pattern, and yes, it will itch.
The survival kit I have been taking to work to deal with my poison ivy includes some oral steroids and steroid creams from the doctor. And then there are the over the counter medications to help with the itching. The only thing that’s not in this bag, though, is the amount of time the poison ivy will take to run its course.
“About ten days to two weeks, but you’re miserable,” Dr. Buck says.
Buck recommends that if you come into contact with the plant, wash anything that may have touched it as soon as possible, since the urushiol oil can be transmitted on anything–dogs, cats, golf equipment and garden tools included.
She also says to stay on the path unless you’re looking for trouble.