Under Attack – or – What I didn’t know about Poison Ivy, Sumac & Oak et al

It might be nice to have a warning sign before we step into life's messes.
It might be nice to have a warning sign before we step into life’s messes.

I love to garden. My gardening enthusiasm knows no bounds. Once the fear of frost is behind us, my hands literally itch in anticipation of plunging into the dirt. By late August, my interest wanes as the endless sweltering days make it less fun to work in the garden. It’s all constant dead-heading and thinning, pulling out volunteer trees, grass, weeds, runaway ground cover and the remnants of what those hateful Japanese beetles have decimated. If I miss a few days, the task seems daunting.

We’re fortunate to have an area at the back of our property line that we refer to as “the back forty” which backs up to woods. It is here where I take heaping wheelbarrow loads full of those things I’ve cleared out, tipping the wheelbarrow and dumping it.

A few weeks back, I took the final load of the day to the back forty, stepping a few feet into the overgrowth to pick a bouquet of wild sweet peas to take to my Mom. They’re a favorite of hers and I thought it would be nice.

Unbeknownst to me, I’d stepped into Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac and/or Poison Oak. Never in 59 years have I been encountered these plants and learned exposure doesn’t always result in immediate symptoms. It took a week before I was symptomatic, last Saturday – two spots on my left leg and a big patch on my left hip. It itched like crazy. I was puzzled. I tried daubing on tea tree oil. Within a day, my right arm was under attack. I thought I’d been bit and grabbed the Benadryl ointment, then the Cortisone Anti-Itch cream. While getting a manicure, my nail-tech, Dawn asked “Is it Poison Ivy”?  To which I answered no (based on what I thought I knew). But Dawn is wise and by nightfall, I was on WebMD.com looking it up –  and yes indeed, I had it.

I checked Pinterest and found this essential oil treatment said to work. I had nothing to lose.

This was somewhat comforting and I smelled rather nice.

Having all four of the essential oils in the first listed “relief” solution, I started oiling up.  That was Wednesday. I began daily laundering of all linens and towels I’d touched and dispatched Spence to pick up Colloidal Oatmeal Bath treatments and Calamine Lotion. By Thursday evening, I was covered in chalky pale pink Calamine lotion, my entire torso, lower back, thighs, right foot, left hand and tummy fully inflamed. Friday morning, I called my doctor, desperate for a pharmaceutical resolution. She examined me (wearing gloves, as she is highly allergic) and advised me to buy a nail brush as I was causing it to spread by my incessant scratching. Meanwhile, Spence is avoiding any physical contact which is advisable.

Now on Day 2 of prescription steroids, I’m seeing improvement – for the first few hours following my dose but as the day wears on, every cell of my body feels electrified and itchy.  I’m unsure sure which of the three evil poison plants got me. The extent of my ignorance was humbling and I only wish I’d gone to the doctor sooner.

Courtesy of Pinterest

Lesson learned: Don’t wait – get to the doctor!