November 12, 2007

Poison Oak & Hives

My husband had a wonderful day Saturday. It was a beautiful fall day, with golden leaves and wispy clouds coloring the landscape. He drove up the hill with his hunting buddy, Chris, to hang their tree-stands for their hunting trip next week. I didn’t go because I thought my slow pace would take some of the fun out of the adventure for them.

He found a perfect tree with a great view of an area that was sure to attract his desired prey. As he approached it he realized that our dreaded enemy, a mature poison oak bush, was standing guard. Being a calculating man, he decided that the risk was worth it, and tore into the bush to get it out of his way.

In the past when we have suspected we might have encountered poison oak (it grows all over our wooded property), we would shower as soon as possible and carefully lather up twice. Though it’s hard to prove, we believed it might be a good defense against the onset of the itchy rash. We would undress by the washing machine, so as not to spread the irritating oil to anyone else. We often broke out with it any way, but what else can you do? We hoped our efforts were making the problem a little more tolerable.

One year I had such a bad reaction to poison oak, that I developed a secondary reaction – hives. On top of that I applied an ointment that only added to the damage, and suffered an exacerbated secondary reaction!!! We’re talkin’ about blisters on my arms and legs. I’ve never had a boil, but I think I know what that must be like! I described the landscape of my skin as a having the appearance of a “toxic dump”. My face swelled up so much at one point that I had to pry my eyes open with my fingers.

I sat in the recliner with my toes separated and fingers spread, so that nothing would touch my outraged skin. I ate there and slept there, and labored to resist scratching. I almost shaved my head, because a single hair would trigger an intense urge to scrape skin away from my body. I seriously entertained the idea of tearing off some skin because it just HAD to grow back better than this!

The blistering only increased, until I realized that the ointment might be the cause and discontinued using it. Since that day I’ve been susceptible to breaking out in hives whenever my skin is compromised.

You can tell where I’m going with this, can’t you? Yes, my dear husband brought home poison oak and shared it with me. He’s scratching his arms and torso, and I’m scratching my face and neck - where I contacted him in my joy to have him home! And sure enough, my face is puffy with hives, too.

I guess the moral of the story has to be that we both knew the risk before we chose to engage in it. We have no reason to complain. We’d both probably do it again; and then again, maybe not!

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