Poison Ivy

I never had poison ivy, never in my life. I could handle the stuff, nothing. “Lucky you,” the doc said when I asked, “you’re just immune.” Until that time back in 2001…

poison-ivyMy dad had two rows hedges he wanted removed. There was plenty of poison ivy in those hedges, which is one of the reasons he wanted ’em out. When he trimmed ’em he’d get some poison ivy for his trouble. I told him I’d handle it.

So one morning I set to work. I crawled under each bush, wrapping the bottom with my trusty tow strap. Attached the loose end to the front of my Jeep and yanked the thing out by the roots. Then on to the next. One after another, about 80+ linear feet all told. Some came out easy, some not so, requiring more wrestling to re-attach the strap and/or dig with a shovel or pickaxe. Then haul it all out to the street by the armload Sweaty, dirty work it was.

The shower felt pretty good.

By nightfall the itching and oozing had set in bigtime. I woke up looking like the Michelin man.

I figured it’d go away pretty quick. After all, I was immune. I figured wrong.

After a couple of days of agony I dropped in on the local doc. He walked into the examining room, took one look, turned and left without a word. Came back with shots and gave me a prescription for 15 days of prednisone (ultra-high dose immediately, then very high and tapering off in five-day increments). Hydroxyzine hydrochloride, too, several times a day for the duration. And finally, some kind of voodoo ointment (Diprolene AF) to help combat the external symptoms.

“But I’ve always been immune! WTF??”

“No more,” he told me, “those days are over for you. You got yourself one severe overdose.”

Over the next couple of weeks my skin slowly dried up as the itching and oozing subsided. And I put on a good fifteen pounds, too, because I ate everything in sight. I was famished-hungry 24/7. Fucking steroids.

And yes, today I’m sensitive to the damned plant. Not as bad as some, but enough that I treat it with respect.

5 thoughts on “Poison Ivy”

  1. Add me to the list of sufferers of urushiol oil. Although it wasn’t too bad growing up with poison ivy and poison sumac in New York, I find I am extremely sensitive to poison oak here in Calif. It seems I break out if I get within 50 feet of the plants. And the itchies lasts forever!

    As with a lot of things, prevention is the best cure. Years ago a camping store in Ashland turned me on to Marie’s Original Poison Oak Soap. This was a godsend. As long as I showered with it within an hour or so of exposure I was safe. See http://realgoods.com/maries-origional-poison-ivy-oak-soap for a good write up of the soap.

    The soap is primarily a preventative but does have some palliative properties. It is all natural (organic) and contains medicinal herbs and oatmeal as a mild abrasive. It not only clears the skin of the urushiol oil but promotes healing if you do end up with a rash. It is not very expensive ($5-$7) and lasts a long time.

    Unfortunately, it appears that Marie has retired or the company may have gone out of business. In any event, stock up while you can.

    A less effective but widely available substitute is Fels-Naptha soap. This is an old stand-by laundry soap designed for oil and stain removal that is very effective against the urushiol irritant.

    1. Appreciate the tip re: Fels-Naptha soap Art K! I had no idea it could be used in this way, and the stuff’s readily available. I haven’t had any serious run-ins with the plant in a long time, but that’s good to know.

      And I know what it’s like to be susceptible to the stuff via an airborne vector! Not fun. That’s my son, and when he was younger it happened a lot.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

  2. You have my sympathy, too ;-) Best of luck with that. I have always been immune to PI. Then a few years ago, I moved to a new place. Right off, I helped a neighbor mow their yard, and I came up with these little itchy dots all over my arms and legs. When I mentioned it, they said, sure, they had PI, and they mowed it down. So I figured, I’m not immune any longer. Then I started mowing my own (newly acquired) lawn. Same thing. I looked all over for PI, and could not find it. (Wait for it ;-) Kept getting those darned itchy spots every time I mowed. Wore long pants and sleeves to stop it. Still could not find the PI. (My doctor opined that it /was/ PI.) Then I went and hiked Bryce Canyon. At one point, my wife called a halt to rest, and the next thing I knew I was covered in a cloud of nearly invisible flies. The next day I was covered with those now familiar itchy dots. Not my wife, darn her hide ;-) Nope, not a bite in sight. Came home and looked real close the next time I mowed. Saw a cloud of nearly invisible flies get stirred up where ever the grass was moist. I just never saw them because I was so busy mowing, and the little guys are really tiny. So maybe I am still immune to PI. Not gonna rub the stuff on just to check ;-) I treat it as if I am allergic. We can develop all sorts of allergic reactions after getting exposed. Look at Rh factors in pregnant moms. They are fine with the first child, then look out for later ones. I knew a woman who had 3 kids with no problem, then skipped 8 years and had one more. Bingo! Rh problem nearly cost her the child. Best of luck staying clean, Rick.

    1. That was a long time ago, now I avoid the plant as best I can. I’m grateful that even after ruining my immunity I’m not affected as much as some others. My son, for example, merely needs to be exposed to the airborne oils to suffer.

      To those tiny insects, here in Florida we call ’em “noseeums” because, well, you don’t see ’em.

  3. You have my sympathy in spades, Rick. Same thing happened to me a few years ago. I had complete immunity when I was younger; now I take every precaution when handling the stuff..

Go ahead and say it.