So... now three member's of our crew have experienced a violent reaction to something on the farm, which we have assumed to be poison ivy. Julien has got some pretty bad blisters on his forearms and Dave's case seems to be spreading to his torseau. The blisters on my hands have healed but now my left armpit is under attack. What we've learned through this painful process is that poison ivy can be present even if the vines and leaves are not. A write-up by Iowa State University informed us that our skin reacts to the oils present in the plant. It can be carried on clothes, tools, pets, and smoke. The problem we were having was identifying where our reaction was coming from. I assumed it was my dog, Nanuk who was carrying the oils on his fur. This made Nanuk public enemy number one on the farm. We steared clear of him like he had the plague... poor guy. But we were still breaking out! So it had to be coming from somewhere else... but where. We didn't see any vines, leaves, or anything resembling poison ivy, we were just digging in the soil, preparing beds by hand.
What we learned.. again, through an internet link to a write up by Ohio State University was that poison ivy grows not only by seed but through a creeping root system and that the oils present in the roots are far more potent than the oils contained in the leaves and vines. We must have come across a root system while preparing the soil and its been reaking havoc. This write-up did mention, however that contrary to popular belief, you cannot contract poison ivy by touching the 'oozing blisters.' That's how they put it... oozing blisters... gross.
So here are the preventative measures that we dicovered. First, if you're going to be digging through the soil, clothing and gloves are key. We love being outside with our shirts off... I don't think that that's will change on the day to day, but if I'm digging in the soil, I'm wearing sleeves and gloves from now on. Next, Wash your clothes and you skin immediately after working in the garden. We learned that regular, over-the-counter dish soap works well as a degreaser to remove the oils but its best to wash initially with cold water. Warm water opens your poors allowing more of the oil to penetrate your skin. Cold water does the opposite and is recommended to prevent the reaction from spreading.
There are a few specialty soaps that we tried. The most effective is a product called Tecnu. It's designed specifically to remove the oils from your skin and to prevent the spread of poison ivy. I tried natural remedies such as jewel weed to dry out the infected areas but had little success. The best method I've found for reducing the itch and sting of poison ivy is to take a scalding hot shower. For some reason, water that is too hot for my skin feels amazing when applied, with some pressure directly to the areas on my body effected by poison ivy. It's actually a pretty sensational feeling and may be the only saving grace of having a head-to-toe skin reaction... just writing about this is making me itch.
We also learned that, contrary to what we thought, you cannot develope an immunity to poison ivy. In fact, the more you come into contact with the plant, the worse your reaction can be. That's not good news for those of us who's whole bodies swell up when we even look at the stuff. So be careful out there, wash you clothes and your skin with cold water after working in the garden. Stock up on tecnu and get back in there.
Till next time