Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Leaves of Three - Let Them Be

I've got poison ivy. Bad. About a week ago, I noticed a small spot on my forearm that itched. Over the course of the next week, it started popping up all over both my arms and hands, and two days ago, it appeared on my face. Yes, that's right - the left side of my face looks like I've got a severe case of hives and if it progresses to look like some of the blistered areas on my hands and arms, I'll be quite attractive for Jenna's wedding on the 17th.

Where did I get it? I'm certain it was in my very own hometown. Romie and I had gone back to dig the mullein we'd seen when we walked the old railroad bed back in January. We found some wild geraniums growing and blooming and of course, I had to have some. I noticed the poison ivy beginning to grow in various places there, but I didn't see any where we were digging. I was the one that actually got down and dirty, putting the plants into the container. Romie just wielded the spade.

So, you see, even if you think you're being careful, you can get burned. This is what the little finger on my right hand looks like. Now imagine that, spread all over my hands and arms. Actually, that's one of the more "attractive" spots. Some of the others have gotten quite a bit uglier, but I thought I'd spare you.

Poison Ivy Facts:

  • The offending substance in poison ivy is urushiol and it's so potent that only ¼ ounce of it would be enough to infect every single person on earth.

  • Poison ivy only grows in the eastern United States, so you can get away from it by moving to California, where they have poison oak.

  • One to five years is the normal length of time for urushiol to stay active on any surface.

  • You cannot get poison ivy from another person unless they still have the urushiol on their skin. It also doesn't spread by opening the blisters. It's only spread by the oil from the plant itself.

  • 90% of the population is allergic to urushiol.

There are many remedies out there for the intense itching poison ivy causes. I discovered my own personal method of dealing with it by accident. I like to take very hot showers and I found that exposing the affected area to the hottest water I could stand eventually caused the itching to stop. At first, it itches worse than ever, then it just stops.

Of course, the best way to not get poison ivy is to not come in contact with it. But you have to know what it looks like. It's grouped in three leaves on a stem, many times with a reddish color (but not always), and it doesn't always grow as a vining plant. Sometimes it's just a normal plant on the ground, growing approximately 6-12 inches tall.

This is what poison ivy looks like around here.

A great site for more information about poison ivy is the
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center, where much of the information in this post is from.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Oh Kylee how awful. I am so allergic to the stuff it is ridiclous. Go to the dr since it is on your face. Get a shot it will help dry it up so much faster. Don't delay.

gregor said...

oh, my...
I live in Central NJ, where the nasty stuff takes on the proportions of Elephant Ears and the vines that wind up into the trees are three inches thick. I've tried everything - RustOx, baby oil, long sleeved shirts, glove and high boots, all duct-taped, tar soap, vinegar, you name it. I still get blistered regardless. I have found that the best thing for the itching and helping dry out the blistering quickly is Preparation H. Works wonders.
Love the blog, by the way.

verobirdie said...

i've heard of poison ivy, mainly from Batman or even NCIS (oh gosh, what will you think of my culture :-)), but did not realize it is that bad. Poor you. Hope you will be better for the wedding, and even before.

garden girl said...

It's all over people's yards around here - not good considering I garden for other people for a living. I'm amazed I haven't gotten 'infected' yet. Yesterday I was working in two yards that had it, and I had to dig and pull it out. I wear gloves, but one of these times it's going to get me. At the last house I was yesterday, there was a lot of it. I saved it for last, then rushed home, showered, and washed my tools. I'm hoping I don't get a reaction. I'll know in a couple of days.

I really feel for you Kylee. Hope you're feeling much better soon.

Connie said...

Oh, kindest sympathies to you! My daughter used to get it and is extremely allergic, so would have a whole body reaction and be laid up for weeks. We finally found something that REALLY works for it, and it is called Zanfel. It used to be only available online, but is now in some pharmacies, such as Walgreens. It washes the urushiol from the skin, and relieves itching almost immediately. It was a life saver for us!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Kylee, I agree with Lisa. Get to a dermatologist- quick!

Several years ago, I had a blistering, oozing, spreading rash that three doctors couldn't identify. I even went to the emergency room it was so bad. I tried everything, even several prescription ointments and nothing was working. My doctor finally sent me to the dermatologist and he gave me a shot which thankfully dried it up and made it go away.

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ I was at work today and my boss, as well as my first patient (who was a nurse), both said I needed to be on a dosepak. I got a prescription for one and I started taking it tonight, as well as am using 1% hydrocortisone cream. Hopefully, this will help.

I actually feel sick. If I don't feel any better tomorrow, I will go in to see the doctor.

gregor ~ Thanks, gregor! I hope you'll continue to visit!
Yes, poison ivy is nothing to mess with.

vero ~ So you don't have poison ivy there? Is there something similar?
Makes me wonder just what the purpose of poison ivy is...

garden girl ~ Oh goodness, I can't imagine working around it like that. I'm usually smarter about it.

Connie ~ I know about Zanfel, but I didn't realize I'd come into contact with it, so using it now won't help, unfortunately. It's been about ten days or so since my exposure.

Robin ~ Oh boy, I hope I don't get too much worse than this. I'm not feeling well at all right now. All afternoon, I've been having hot flashes and cold sweats, etc., off and on, and it's not due to my age this time. (I'm on HRT, which takes care of that.) I've taken all six tablets from the Dosepak and I'm heading to bed now.

THANKS, everyone, for your well wishes!

Rose said...

Oh dear, oh dear, I am so sorry for you, Kylee, especially with the wedding coming up.
Last year I got posion ivy for the very first time in my life. I was pulling up weeds in the back, backyard around an old well pit. Sunday I saw the poison ivy sprouting up again this year, so I pulled up every root I could and cut off longer pieces. I wore gloves and a long shirt. I didn't know it might take a couple days for it to show up. I feel itchy already. Is there a way to kill the plant??

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so sorry! It sounds awful! I work around it, and usually only get it if I touch it, but I know people that get it even if they are standing near it. Hope your better soon.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I am so sorry, that is awful. I get the stuff bad, really really bad. Here is the best thing I have ever found - Tecnu soap. You have to wash with it before you break out or it does not work well. When I even imagine I have come into contact with the stuff I strip and take a shower with this stuff and I don't blister up.

OldRoses said...

Me too! Me too! I no longer bother with home remedies. I go straight to the doctor for corticol steroids and antihistamines. Very drastic for me since I generally avoid doctors. But I know that I have to take immediate measures or it will cover my entire body. I feel your pain, I mean itch.

Frances, said...

Oh you poor dear, hope it clears up enough for make up to cover it for the wedding. Of all the times to get something on your face, that's the way of it sometimes. We have it here, those steroid paks of pills do help. For the itching I use a clear gel sold over the counter, called Band Aid gel, used to be called ruli gel. It is in a tube by Johnsons & Johnsons, Walmart or any drug store. It helps the itching and is clear so it doesn't look bad. Hope you recover soon!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Don't you just love the timing of these things - always the worst. I hope it all clears up soon. Next time while you're out digging things up, also keep an eye out for Poison Sumac, it's about as bad.

kate smudges said...

Ouch, I'm feeling itchy just reading your post. I am so sorry you had to get this right before Jenna's wedding. Maybe going to the dr. might be a good idea - you don't want it on your face.

So maybe I can point to this as an advantage of living here - no poison ivy. I'm sure we've got something equally as poisonous though - I've just not encountered it.

Nancy J. Bond said...

My daughter (a wildlife biologist who knows better) got into a patch of it two summers ago while working in a wetland -- only her face blistered, so she refused to believe it was poison ivy for a few days, but there's no denying those awful blisters. What lousy timing for you. I hope they clear up quickly and that you get some relief in the meantime.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Oh Kylee, you poor thing. I've heard of poison ivy too but did not know how ugly that could be. The best way to avoid it is by moving to the Netherlands. We don't have poison ivy and we don't have poison oak either. What a relief!

I hope you are feeling better today and will look your lovely self for the wedding; rash be gone!!!

Take care and lots of hot showers!

Connie said...

Kylee, Zanfel will work even can wash the urushiol from the skin, even this long after! I personally talked the the man who formulated it, and this is what makes it unique from other products.

Kylee Baumle said...

Rose ~ It can take up to a week to show up, and I'm proof of it. When it started showing up, it was just a very tiny spot a week ago, and now... WOW.
Yes, Roundup will kill it. I'm sure there are other methods, but we know this works.

vonlafin ~ Yes, some people are exceptionally allergic to it. You do have to get the oil on you to get it, but if it's burning, the oil can be in the air. Imagine how awful it would be to have it in your lungs!

aunt debbie/kurts mom ~ I know about Tecnu also, but see, I didn't really think I'd touched any, so I didn't take precautions. I should have, just in case! Live and learn!

oldroses ~ I'll tell you this: I'm sure going to be a LOT more careful from now on! I'm a geocacher and am always around it when doing that, and have only gotten it once from caching. That was four years ago, the last time I got it.
The Medrol Dosepak is helping. I can tell already.

Frances ~ My aunt recommended the BandAid gel, too. I remember when it was called Rhuligel. The hydrocortisone cream is helping quite a bit, as well as the Dosepak. I've still got nine days until the wedding, so hopefully, it will be gone by then!

Mr McGregor's Daughter ~ I dont know if I would know poison sumac if I saw it. Maybe that's what this is! I don't think so, though.

Kate ~ Are you serious? No poison ivy or anything? That's wonderful. We have it all over the place here.

Nancy ~ The blisters are horrid. They are worse than any blisters I've gotten from burns. You should see them now! Much uglier, redder, crusty, ugh. But of course that means they're starting to dry up, too. The Dosepak is helping and I feel better tonight than I did last night.

Yolanda Elizabet ~ Move to the Netherlands... Can I be your neighbor? Our kitties could have play dates!
I've got nine days to get rid of this! Say some prayers, okay? :-)

Kylee Baumle said...

Connie ~ It's been ten days or so since I was exposed, and if it's still on my skin, I'd sure be surprised. With the way I take sometimes two hot baths or showers a day as I garden and am training for the half-marathon, along with the scrubbing I've done, I'd be shocked to find a trace of it by now. I will sure file that info away for the future though, although I hope I don't need to make us of it!

Meg said...

Oh, what bad timing! You have my sympathies, as I sit her scratching the hell out of a patch on my forearm. I never used to get poison, but I think I must have run into a particularly nasty patch.

My younger brother has always gotten poison really badly, and one thing he swears by is Ivy Dry--I believe you can pick it up over-the-counter at a drugstore. It reeks, but it does dry the stuff up pretty quickly.

Good luck!

Sky said...

Sarna lotion will help with the itching and soothe the areas like a magical potion. i am never without it for all itching!

medrol dosepak should help a bunch. hoping you are much better soon. so sorry this has happened with a wedding on the horizon. :(

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

That's just awful! I'm so sorry. I hope you'll be healing up quickly and soon because its NO FUN.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I battle poison ivy in my garden, too. (I wrote a post about it not long ago.) This morning, I found a healthy vine growing in and among my climbing roses! Good grief.

Melanie Chopay said...

Kylee, I'm another one who is horribly alergic to the stuff although at one time it didn't bother me. I had it so badly the doctor had me taking steroids. The worst thing I did was wait before going to the dr. he was able to clear it up quickly once I started on meds (and I NEVER EVER take medicine usually).

Philip Bewley said...

great comments on poison ivy. We suffered so much as children from this. You would not... well you you would. Oh my! Well so much to say. First, initial contact is bad. repeated contact is really bad. It then gets in your system and your whole body blows up, not just affected areas. Yikes, indeed. Medical attention is required at this point. I know. We had realy bad cases in the 1970's. We were all in and out the chapparal which grew in the canyon beyond our house. I stay clear of poison oak ever since!!!

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