Do you remember the biblical account of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom as they left the city? Granted, she was warned ahead of time, but yet, something terrible happened merely by her casting a gaze! Well, I think I’ve found the modern-day equivalent.
I suffer from severe reactions to poison ivy. I as much as look in its direction, and I’m in trouble! Can someone really have an allergic reaction so easily? In reality, I’ve learned that it usually takes multiple exposures over time to build up a reaction to poison ivy. That explains why my first allergic reaction wasn’t until a few years ago.
During a massive backyard cleanup project, I hauled away armloads of English Ivy. Hidden within that lush ivy was an ivy of a more sinister type. Two nights later, in desperation, I drove myself at 2am to the emergency room for some relief.
The diagnosis was contact dermatitis. It was aggravated by an extreme allergic reaction to urushiol – the sticky, oily sap contained within every part of a poison ivy plant. I was treated and released with the embarrassing distinction of having Piedmont Hospital’s worst case of the year.
My next memorable encounter occurred compliments of my cat, Booty. By now, I had an eagle-eye, trained to detect and avoid poison ivy from great distances. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when it has come into contact with your family pet or even a child’s ball.
Urushiol oil is so sticky it attaches to anything that brushes against the plant. Although animals are generally immune, they’re the number one cause for outbreaks in humans.
When I awoke the next morning, a red and itchy rash covered my neck and cheek. Where had that come from?!? It looked and felt like poison ivy, but I hadn’t been anywhere near the dreaded vine. I mentally retraced my steps. Then, it became clear. Booty, the family cat I had lovingly caressed and hugged the day before, was a urushiol carrier! (Note to self: Keep cats away from neck and face!)
Recently, I was cleaning out an area of the backyard in my new North Carolina home. I knew there was poison ivy in the area, so I was extra cautious. I was sure I had avoided it that day. I was wrong.
Once again, the next day proved my sensitivity to an outbreak. My arms were covered in it. Although it was uncomfortable, I was more concerned was that it looked terrible – especially as I was scheduled for a live appearance on the TODAY show later in the week.
On Saturday morning, I’d be doing hand-held demonstrations on live network television. My wrist was a red, bubbling, oozing mess. It was bad! I had three choices:
- Try to conceal it with a large band-aid (too obvious).
- Address it as a common plague of gardeners (too gross)… or
- Let the make-up artist work her magic.
I opted for the latter. TODAY’s skilled make-up artist sprayed over my wrist with an airbrush and powder that might as well have been flesh-toned paint. The oozing, red rash covering my wrist disappeared before my eyes. It was amazing. No one at NBC or in TV Land ever knew.
That latest poison ivy encounter has just about healed up, but I haven’t returned to my backyard project since. I’m too keenly aware that I have another TODAY show appearance in two weeks. There’s no point any taking any chances now!