April 19, 2011

The Study of Poison Ivy and Other Nonsense

poison_ivyWe like to learn in a hands-on fashion around here.  Why read about Poison Ivy when you can examine it first hand?  Am I right?

This is my left wrist (below).  See all those bumps and welts?  Those will look just like that nasty seeping sore in a day or so if I can’t get this under control. These seeping ugly sores drip and run and it’s seriously gross.


This is my right wrist (below). This is just a portion of the swelling on this arm.  I have horrid bumps on my elbow and up my arm.  They are also on my leg, behind my ear, on my collar bone and who knows where else they will appear. This batch is much juicier than the last.  The seepage starts within seconds of washing and treating it.  It actually runs and drips.  YUCK!!


I’ve foolishly said aloud numerous times in my life, on walking trails and other such places, that I don’t react to Poison Ivy. I may be allergic to several green growing things, but Poison Ivy was not one of them.  That is until I encountered the Poison Ivy here at our new home.

One day while working on the house, my husband and I decided to pull the “dormant vines” off the side of the house.  It was my idea.  A few days later,  I was itching like mad, but had no idea I had poison Ivy.

To make a long story short, let’s just say, that I suffered with Poison Ivy for about 1 and 1/2 months.  I tried everything, including two rounds of prednisone which nearly drove me mad.  No amount of medication could relieve me or stop this poison from spreading.  Each day new bumps would appear and I had it nearly everywhere.  I knew I was dealing with something bad when the bumps started reemerging after coming off prednisone. I had washed our bedding and clothing and shoes.  I was miserable. I was having a full systemic reaction to the poison. I had huge thick scabby sections on many parts of my body, some were as large as a 7 x 4 area. They were thick bright red and inflamed.  I just knew they would leave scars.

Luckily, a bloggy friend, suggested trying “natures’ steroid” (a combination of marshmallow root and Astragulas).  It brought instant itching relief and the healing process was finally able to begin. This time, just as luck would have it, I was in short supply and went for the first couple of days without it.  I ordered quite the stash since and am now back in business.

There’s something to be said for desperation verging on insanity curiosity and the desire to find answers.  Believe me I have the questions. 

  • Why have I never reacted to Poison Ivy until we moved into this house?
    • Some people may boast that they've been exposed to poison ivy many times and have never gotten the rash, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're not allergic. Sometimes the allergy doesn't emerge until you've been exposed several times, and some people develop a rash after their very first exposure. It may take up to ten days for the rash to emerge the first time. Everyone has a different sensitivity, and therefore a slightly different reaction, to poison ivy.
  • Why do my reactions go systemic?
    • Plant dermatitis is caused by reaction to skin contact with certain plants.
      About 80 percent of these reactions are irritant reactions and 20 percent are allergic reactions. Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed response that triggers an immune response to an irritant. Guess which percentage I am in?
  • I touched vines, not leaves!  Does it matter?
    • Because urushiol is found in all parts of the poison ivy plant -- the leaves, stems, and roots -- it's best to avoid the plant entirely to prevent a rash. Urushiol gets on your skin by direct contact with the plant, or something that has come into direct contact with the offensive plant.
  • How do I get rid of it? (on me and in my yard)
    • “You call the doctor when the itching is so severe that it interferes with your life,” Tucker says. “Itching can be as bad as severe pain, and can cause just as much suffering.” Treatment usually involves steroids for their anti-inflammatory action, by injection or pills.  Often general physicians will prescribe a very short course of oral steroids. “Occasionally the dosing cycle is too short—just long enough to relieve the initial symptoms but not long enough to suppress the reaction for good. If there’s a relapse, it is much harder to treat the second time around.”  This was my experience.  I had two rounds of steroids which had me jumping out of my skin.  The spreading continued once the steroids were finished.  That’s when I started “nature’s steroid” and could take it for a longer time period with no side effects what so ever.

Here are some Poison Ivy myths I came across:

Myth: Poison ivy is contagious.
Reality: You can't spread poison ivy by coming into contact with a person who has it, unless that person has urushiol on their skin. You can, however, pick it up by touching a dog that has gotten poison ivy on its fur, or by touching the blade of a weed whacker that you just used to cut down the plants.

Myth: You can spread poison ivy to other parts of your body by picking at the blisters on your skin.
Reality: The only way you can get poison ivy is by touching the plant, or by touching an object that has come into direct contact with the plant and has urushiol on it. If you scratch or pick at the rash and blisters, you may cause an infection, but you won't cause the rash to spread. Although the rash may appear to "spread," it is only because the reaction occurs more slowly on some parts of the body than it does in other parts. I don’t know if I believe this one.  My Poison Ivy ends up everywhere.  On my earlobe, legs, my hairline.  Places that are covered when I am in contact with the plant.  Some places emerge 2 weeks or more after the initial contact. I had new places coming up after two rounds of sterioids. I seriously suspect that once a reaction becomes systemic, it is no longer just a dermatitis problem, but a whole body breakdown.

Myth: If I eat poison ivy, I'll become immune to it in the future.
Reality: This is not only untrue, but it can be lethal. Eating poison ivy can cause a potentially fatal allergic reaction. Some animals, including deer, happily eat poison ivy with no ill effects.

Myth: Some people are so sensitive to poison ivy that they can catch it just by being near the plant.
Reality: You have to touch the plant to get poison ivy - just being close to it will not get urushiol on your skin.

Myth: You can't get poison ivy from a dead plant.
Reality: Urushiol can linger on surfaces -- including the poison ivy plant -- for several years, even after the plant has died.

If you have horrid reactions to Poison Ivy, you have my sympathies.  Really.  OH, if you can help it, I would recommend a text book type learning experience of this topic.  Hands-on Learning for this really stinks!

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7/07/2013

    Really great blog article!! Well written and layed out. I've been reading tons of article online. I like that you provided a natural path.


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