I've Met the Enemy and It's Poison Ivy

Beware the gloved ones in the hospital when you're looking for relief.

Poison ivy is my enemy!

Some of us have no way of avoiding the eventual oil-filled pustules. Its leaves seek us out. They taunt us.

Others can roll around in it for an hour, and nothing.

It’s been my hated foe since I was a young kid exploring the wooded areas surrounding Pine Lake in Bristol. It was everywhere — whether fishing from the brush in the summer or getting off the ice and cutting through the woods during the winter, when most think it is dormant. Didn’t matter. I only had to look at it to be pulled into its weeks-long nightmare of oozing and itching and scratching and not sleeping.

As a kid, my father had his generations-old cures. Octagon Soap. Really. Lather it on your hands (or other areas), and let it dry. The soap was supposed to dry out your skin. Suck the poison from the little bubbles.

Then there was soaking my hands in bleach. OK, do not ever in your life try that one at home.

Even as an adult I’ve been plagued. Several years ago I had it so badly that I went to the ER. It was rampant. You’d have thought that I had crushed the leaves, rolled them into more leaves and then smoked it. That’s how bad it was.

So I entered the ER. I explained the issue. And I showed them some of the affected areas. Looking alarmed, the staff gloved-up and pushed me into a room. I was quarantined! But it’s freaking poison ivy! I’ve gotten it yearly since I was six.

Two infectious disease doctors were called in from another area of the campus. I couldn't see their faces from behind the masks, but they were females. Both of them. They wanted to know what foreign countries I’d been to recently. I don’t know, New Jersey? Last weekend.

Umm, can I just have some Prednisone and I’ll be on my way? I won’t even tell anyone that I was here. They needed to know where else I had it. Well, here … too. I looked down. They told me to take my shoes off.

No, not there. Halfway down to there. They looked down. Halfway. Yeah there. And it doesn’t look like it should. They needed to see it. Sooo … are there any guy docs here tonight? There were not. They said they were the only two infectious disease doctors on duty. And they couldn’t release me until they saw “it.”

I was not certain what they thought I had, but they sure were careful when 20 minutes later I finally decided to reveal “it” to them. So? They poked around with a stick a bit. Even I was beginning to worry.

Now, if you’re a dude and have had poison ivy down there, you know exactly what happens once it gets out of control. You’d just as soon keep it to yourself at that point. And believe me, if it wasn’t the weekend and I was not about to jump into a pool of acid for some kind of relief, I would have waited until good ole Dr. Rosen was back in the office on Monday morning.

They still weren’t ready to let me out of the room. I was caged — surrounded by windows that couldn’t open. The staff outside pointed and then consulted. But not with me. Will you listen to me!? Streroids, for about a week. That will take care of it. I won’t bother you again. I just want to go home and be itchy there. Really, I won’t ever talk about this night.

A very serious male doctor was let in next. He asked if I was 100 percent sure that I hadn't been to another part of the world recently. If I had been in a playful mood I would have mapped out a route from here to Zimbabwe. No, no Doctor. I swear. Prednisone. Please. Can I get a scrip and be on my way?

They finally released me from the room. The others in the waiting room looked away as I passed them to get my magazine. They held onto their children as I was led to another room.

I never did get my Prednisone. I had to wait two more days until I saw my own doctor. I’m sharing this because my hands are beginning to itch. I see little bumps. And it reminds me of that incident as well as some of the silly things I hear from people regarding poison ivy (and its cousins).

There is a lot of misinformation out there. Do a little research and find out the facts about this irritating rash. And if you do come into contact with the enemy, scrub yourself like a surgeon. Especially before touching “it.”

Deb L. September 07, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Completely sympathize, I've been there with poison ivy (or oak, sumac, etc). I've gotten help at the Minute Clinic type places when my doctor is unavailable. There is also a product called Ivy Block which I've found effective if you know you might be exposed. Since I do the weeding and we back up to woods, it's saved me many times. You have to slather it on, and still make sure you shower ASAP after exposure. You can get Ivy Block at amazon or drugstore.com, have not seen it in local stores.
Jonathan Hochman September 07, 2012 at 05:56 PM
It's terrible that people suffer from poison ivy, and most doctors have no common sense how to treat it. I'm very sensitive to poison ivy, but I never get it. At the first sign of itching I wash the area with Tecnu. (http://www.teclabsinc.com/store/poison-oak-ivy/tecnu) It's a soap that you lather on for a minute, and then wash off. It removes the irritating oils. If a rash has already started, Tecnu stops the itching almost immediately and allows the blisters to heal. It can also be used to launder contaminated clothes or garden tools. We've had no problem finding Tecnu in local stores.
Joe Casorio September 08, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Ron.........I tried not to laugh, but this is hilarious! I certainly have been in this scene (patient, of course) and understand the angst and humiliation you perfectly characterize. Luckily, I've been poison-ivy free through most of my adult life. It's irritating (literally,) when you only need to look at it and it attacks in all the wrong places. Prednisone is your friend :)
Ron Goralski September 11, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Hi Friends, I'm working on a column regarding one's youth sports legacy. Those who have passed away and left behind something for others to remember them by. Give me the person who comes to mind in your town and what their contribution was. Please send it to ron.goralski@snet.net. Put LEGACY as the title of the email please. Be sure to list your town. Thanks!
Kelli M. October 15, 2012 at 01:54 PM
They have Ivy Block at Target. :) Had to use it last month for my poison ickiness and it did help dry it up a little faster.


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