Thursday, March 7, 2013

I've been poisoned!

When I was in the fourth grade, I loved to play four square during recess at school.  Next to the cement squares we played on was a fence covered in honeysuckle.  When the honeysuckle bloomed we would abandon our game and gather by the flowers, pulling their stamens out the bottom and licking the nectar that came out with them.  Flower after flower, we ate those tiny sweet droplets.

What I didn't notice was the poison ivy growing amidst the honeysuckle.  But, since I had been touching it and licking my uroshiol covered fingers, I quickly discovered my mistake.  I was soon covered in oozy blisters and my entire body swelled, poisoned no doubt from the inside as well as the outside.  Even my earlobes swelled--the left one was over half an inch thick. 

Eventually the swelling subsided, and the rash cleared up.  I was left with white spots all over my arms, places that just would not tan any more.  I was very careful after that, and never snacked on honeysuckle again, at least not while we lived in Mississippi.

6 years later, my family was poised to move from our next home in San Luis Obispo.  We were headed to Utah, and I spent every moment I could at the beach until we left.  A few days before the move, some friends and I went out to Hazard Reef to play on the dunes and explore the tide pools.  It wasn't until we were on our way home that we noticed the entire trail was covered with poison oak, poison ivy's almost as itchy cousin.

But I wasn't itchy yet, and I was not going to put my farewell plans on hold.  I thought maybe I'd even escaped the danger since I couldn't see any signs of contact.  I had a goodbye party at a different beach, and spent the day at Avila soaking up as much of the California sun as I could hold.  That night, after a bonfire, several of us jumped off the Avila Pier.  For a moment I felt like I was flying, until I finally smacked into the water below. 

A couple days later, my family loaded into our big brown van, filled with kids and birds and fish and hot vinyl seats.  By this point, the poison oak rash had fully erupted, though I never swelled like I had with my first experience.  I was also sunburned completely crispy, and had bruised my bottom when I hit the water after jumping off the pier.  And I was 16, and very unhappy about the move, and not afraid to show it.  It was a miserable drive that culminated in an extended stay at the Travelodge in Provo while my parents looked for a house to rent.  I spent most of it on the pull out couch in our suite, teaching my baby brother to laugh like Beavis and Butthead, or in the tub, soaking in baking soda, trying not to claw my skin off. 

We then moved from the Travelodge to my grandparent's basement for the next week or so.  By this point, the rash had erupted on my hands.  You could see the blisters, bulging under tough skin of my palms, and I would press my fingernails into them, feeling them crunch as they popped under the surface.  I definitely didn't feel, or look, much like making new friends.

But eventually I healed, both from the poison oak, and the move.  I made new friends, had many adventures, and always managed to avoid those nasty leaves of three.

Until last weekend, that is.

We went for a hike with some friends, and as soon as we got to the trailhead, Miss Maggie needed to go to the bathroom.  Of course.  And there was no bathroom.  Of course.  So I took her on a little nature pee, looking for a little privacy, not even considering thinking of poison oak once.  And then at some point I wiped my nose (because of my stupid cold.  Number three this winter.  THREE!), and rubbed my eye, and touched my arm.  The next day I got up and took a quick, hot shower before church. 

Monday morning I woke up late for my exercise class, jumped out of bed in a panic, threw my clothes on and raced out the door (Seriously, who am I?).  While working out, I noticed a rash on the inside of my right arm.  And a puffy left eye.  By that night there were patchy blisters all over my right arm, and part of my left, and on my nose and by my eye.  Stupid poison oak!

I've learned a few things about it in the last few days that I didn't know before. 
  • People usually don't develop a rash until their second contact with urishiol.  Which explains why Maggie isn't currently screaming about a rash on her bum.
  • The rash typically doesn't develop until 1-5 days after exposure, by which point most people have showered and spread the plant oils all over their bodies.  Poison oak=jerk.
  • The liquid in the blisters is not contagious.  It does not contain urishiol, and will not spread the rash to other parts of your body.
  • The urishiol oils remain potent up to five years after the plant has died. Jerk!
  • There are several websites dedicated to the crazy things people will do to eliminate the oils/rash.  Most of those remedies make me wonder if having no skin at all is better than having the itch.
  • Regardless of what ridiculous solutions you try, the rash usually lasts 7-10 days.
I'm now on day 4.  I'm starting to see signs of improvement, but the next time Maggie needs to go while we are hiking, I am throwing her privacy to the wind!

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