Last weekend I spend a fair amount of my time working on the final parts of Our Summer Garden–mainly getting that last bits of the dripper system in place and going some general cleanup work. During most of Sunday I had a persistent itch on the back of my neck. I assumed it a was a small bug bite and scratched at it occasionally but didn’t think much more about it. (Bug bites are common in the Sierra Foothills–especially around water and lush vegetation.)
On Monday the itch persisted and seemed to spread a bit, but there was not real visible indication of anything unusual. Still, I used a bit of Gold Bond medicated cream I found in our medicine cabinet and that provided some temporary relief. Again, I didn’t think much of it. Until Tuesday.
On Tuesday, it became clear that something was going on. I had lots of little “bubbles” forming on my neck and shoulders. At that point the “bug bite” theory went out the window and I started reading about Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. What they all have in common is a chemical know as Uruishol, a highly potent skin irritant.
Unfortunately, some of the early advice I read was pretty bad and I ended up taking a hot shower and scrubbing the area pretty well. That provided some temporary relief, but also may have contributed to spreading the toxin a bit more. And it turned out that my agressive scrubbing of the area turned what might have been a minor skin irritation into something that my body now wants to grow scab tissue over.
If you’re not grossed out yet, the good news is that I did find some relief as the week went on. It ended up being a mix of Triple Antibiotic Ointment (aka Neosporin) for the pain and healing of the areas I scrubbed, as well as Zanfel, an expensive yet effective wash that helps to remove the uruishol from your skin. Folks at our local pharmacy scoff at the price but told me “a lot of people really swear by this stuff.”
Note that Zanfel is about 30% cheaper on Amazon.com if you want to have some on hand. I also found Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap, which appears to be one of the better preventative options if you know you’ve been exposed and can get a good washing before it takes hold.
The bottom line is that, based on what I’ve read, I’m pretty lucky to have never had a reaction to uruishol until recently. But living where we do, I’m definitely going to be more vigilant about exposure and have a few things on hand so I’m prepared to wash the stuff off as best as I can before the reaction really kicks in.
A few other suggestions I’ve heard since complaining about my experience on twitter, on facebook, and in our chat room at work are:
- sea salt and a bandage to help dry out the reacting area
- cortisone cream to help reduce the reaction
Have you had a poison ivy, oak, or sumac experience and found a particularly good treatment?