Sunday, August 2, 2009

Poison Ivy

As many of you know, I got into poison ivy a couple of weeks back on a canoe camping trip in the Adirondacks. When, two days after I returned home, I was still itching and scratching uncontrollably, I finally called my doctor's office. What I thought were insect bites turned out to be poison ivy. "Those tiny pinhole clusters aren't insect bites," I was told by the nurse practitioner who examined me.

I always thought I was immune to it. I have spent a lot of time in the woods in my lifetime and never got it.

Through my doctor and the pharmacist, I learned a lot about poison ivy. First, you can become allergic to it over time. You can also contract it from touching a dog who has come in contact with it, or by handling wood or other objects that poison ivy has touched.

There is a product called Ivy Block, available through your pharmacist, that you can use if you think you may be in an area where there is poison ivy. This coats your skin and covers the pores to keep out the infection. It has to be washed off, though, after several hours as it isn't safe to leave on long term.

Another over the counter product, Sarna Lotion, is a good temporary relief solution for the itching.

In my case, they gave me a package of pills to take for six days. Even though the itching stopped soon after I began taking the pills, I still had to finish all of the supply. I was fortunate that I didn't experience any of the possible side effects of these pills.

The other thing I didn't know is that the appearance of poison ivy changes with the seasons. It goes from green to dark red from spring through fall. I always thought of it as a green three pointed leaf with jagged edges.

The next time you are in the woods, remember, "Leaves of three, leave it be!"

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