Thursday, September 2, 2010

You're Going to Need an Ocean. . .

Poison ivy was my nemesis as a child.  Few summer days passed when I wasn't sporting its nasty, bubbly rash.  My mother swore I could get it from particles in the air.

And I did once.

That nasty rash is an allergic reaction to an oily resin produced by poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.  The resin, urushiol oil, is tenacious stuff.  Some sources say it will last one to five years on any surface, including a dead poison ivy plant!  It also survives fire and can become airborne in the form of smoke when burned.

That's how I got it from the air.  A neighbor was burning poison ivy with his fall leaves and I was playing outside.  I got the stuff in my eyes and throat and was nearly hospitalized.  It was one of the most miserable experiences of my life.

To add insult to injury, my younger sister, who followed me everywhere as a child, never got it.  She's allergic to everything else on the planet, but somehow she has remained in the 10% of the population immune to urushiol (though allergies can always change). I'd hoped my boys would follow in her footsteps.

They followed in mine.

Poor Gabe had swollen, red ankles for most of our camping trip.

It took me a while to pinpoint where he likely got it.  Gabe doesn't wander off the trail and the only time his ankles were exposed like this was on our way to the bathhouse.  I searched the bathhouse trail one evening so we could avoid future poison ivy contact and found a tiny clump of three-leaved plants to the side of the path. I pointed it out to the boys, but there must have been a few leafless stems in the middle of the path as well. By the end of the week, all three of us had it on our ankles to varying degrees.

Fortunately, I'd come prepared with not quite an ocean, but at least a small pond of calamine lotion.

Poison Ivy in one of its evil forms

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Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center,

Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac - WebMD Topic Overview,

Poison Ivy Rash, Mayo Clinic,

What Poison Ivy Looks Like,, includes graphic gallery called "Skin Rash Hall of Fame" - view at your own risk!

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