Friday, May 20, 2005

Itchy and Scratchy

My nemesis, poison ivy. Posted by Hello

Last summer, I awoke one morning with a burning and itching surprise. Never having experienced poison ivy, I had no idea what had befallen me. I thought for sure that I was dying. My skin had etchings on it—raised welts that showed where my fingernails had coursed through the oils and spread the poison all over my body as I scratched and slept. I looked like I had been switched with a cane. Crisscrossed marks covered the backs of my thighs, my torso, and my arms. It was so bad, I was fully expecting a priest at my door and to see three sixes start to form in raised red skin on my stomach at any moment. The only place that wasn’t affected was my face--and I mean the only place. Let me just say it like this: pray you never have to treat a hemorrhoid when you are also treating poison ivy!

I had never before been allergic to poison ivy and didn’t realize that you can develop an allergy to it over time. I figured that I had contaminated myself when I went out to weed-eat in my garden and just whacked down everything I didn’t want, including the three-leafed devil. I envisioned vaporized poisonous oils in clouds of dust that settled on my skin and later caused my frightening eruptions. I told a friend what I had done, and later heard a mutual friend of ours catch himself as he said something about how stupid it was of me to wade callously through the stuff, much less vaporize it. From that point forward, I decided to be careful what I say to that friend and also to avoid all possible contact with poison ivy.

When I went to the doctor, she prescribed prednisone for my situation, but not before interrogating me thoroughly about whether or not I had a predisposition for being bound and gagged and whipped by a sadist with sprigs of poison ivy. I assured her that I can get into a lot of things, but that would not be one of them. She looked over her glasses at me and said, "Ron?" as if she wasn’t sure she believed me.

Anyway, I had been about four days into treatment when I noticed a large brown spot right in the center of the field of vision in my left eye. I blinked and it was still there….the perfect replica of the hurricane emblem that is used on television weather maps. I blinked again. Yep…I had a hurricane in my eye. I called my doctor and told her that I had awakened with a brown spot in my eye. We scheduled an emergency appointment to have my eye checked. While I was waiting for my appointment, I checked the Weather Channel to learn that Hurricane Isabel was brewing in the Atlantic and I knew instantly from looking at the different weather features that would influence its path, that it was heading straight for North Carolina.

When the doctor asked me to describe the spot in my eye, I paused for a second and decided that maybe I should keep it to myself that it was shaped like a hurricane emblem. I did, at least, describe the breadth and width of the spot relative to my field of vision. She dilated my pupils and found that I had developed a blister or bubble under my retina or maybe just had a large floating cell. Either way, we basically just hoped it would go away once the prednisone had run its course. Indeed, it did. A few days later, Hurricane Isabel came ashore near Cape Hatteras and moved northwestward toward my home. At the height of the storm in my community, my neighbor had a tree fall on his house, but I went unscathed, except for the calm of Valium that I had been taking to get me through the storm. When the storm had cleared and my eye had lost all hints of its hurricane, my poison ivy had cleared up as well.

So, ever since, I have been extremely careful about this plant and have avoided it at all possible costs. However, I awoke this morning to find a familiar heat and itch developing. I pulled out my hand mirror and looked at the backs of my thighs to find that tell-tale crisscrossed pattern of welts. I realized immediately that I had been afflicted again with the creepy itch. HOW? Ahhhhh! I gave my miniature schnauzers haircuts yesterday and they must have been romping amid the plants in my yard. I had apparently covered myself with the plant oils by contact with their dander.

The really, really, really bad news is that I am no longer able to take prednisone after the hurricane incident and so I only have antihistamines and topical steroids to treat my rash. I can soak in cool baths of oatmeal and use other creams for some relief, but unless my face and eyes are affected, I have to avoid the use of prednisone. It could therefore take up to a week or ten days for the eruptions to stop and then even longer for the itching to abate.

Have you ever had an itch that you shouldn’t scratch? I do…several times a minute!



Blogger Erin said...

Oh I hate to admit how hard I laughed through this post. I've been severely allergic to poison ivy (and oak, and sumac) since I was a small child, I sent most of my childhood painted an adorably feminine shade of calamine-pink.

I'll be sending you anti-itch vibes for a week or so! Since it's the best I can offer! Let me know if the oatmeal baths help, they never did a thing for me!

5/20/2005 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous terrilynn said...

My sympathies. I remember spending many days of my childhood looking like the Elephant (wo)man, covered in poison ivy or oak. Ouchouchouch!

5/21/2005 08:37:00 AM  

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