Monday, June 19, 2017

Desperate measures

For the first time in my life I have Poison Ivy.

How I managed to make it for 36 years without getting it, I have no clue.  Especially since I grew up on a farm and spent a significant portion of my childhood outside.

I must have contracted it last week when we were doing some outdoor work in our yard.  I know what the plant looks like and I knew there was some in a particular area in the back of the yard, so I was careful to avoid it.  I should have been wearing pants and sleeves, but since it was slightly cooler than the surface of the sun outside, I opted for shorts and a tanktop.  This was a mistake.

Anyway, it started on my ankles/lower legs on Thursday.  Annoying but not a big deal since legs are easy to slap some calamine lotion on, cover, and go on with your day.  Then a few spots started to appear on my upper legs.  Then my abdomen and back.  Then my neck.  Then my face.  A blistery, puss filled rash ON MY FACE.  Each day it seemed to double in size.  It wasn't too bad until it started to creep to areas that I can't cover.

From everything I've read, the rash itself isn't dangerous as much as it is annoying. The danger comes from the risk of secondary infection (from scratching the blisters open) and if it gets to your eyes or in your mouth/throat it can cause some pretty serious issues.

I tried everything I can think of to manage the annoyance of it and try to get it to stop spreading.  I tried several different types of cream, plus oral Benadryl, plus my regular allergy medication. Minimal relief and very short-lived.  So I turned to Dr. Google (I know, I know, desperate times call for desperate measures.....) for some less mainstream cures.  Pouring vinegar (two different types) yielded no effect.  Same with rubbing alcohol.  Same with a cold coffee compress.  A cool shower provided temporary relief, as did making a paste of baking soda, rubbing it on my skin, and letting it dry (though I'm not sure the mess it caused was worth the minor temporary relief).  I stopped short of putting bleach on my skin, though I did briefly consider it before my youngest sister (who has a well established history of acquiring and treating severe cases of poison ivy) reminded me that it was fucking crazy to put a caustic agent on my face.

When I woke up Sunday morning it had spread again and was less than a 1/2 inch from my mouth.  I decided it was time for medical intervention.  I'm fortunate to have e-visits included as part of my health insurance plan, so I didn't even have to leave my house to go to the doctor.  I logged on to my account, entered a few bits of information, snapped a few pictures, paid my $5 copay (which, I know for some of you paying to see a doctor is reprehensible, but by American standards, $5 is a steal), and waited less than five minutes to see a nurse practitioner.  She had seen my pictures so had a pretty good idea what we were dealing with.  She asked a few questions to verify what I'd already done to manage it and how it had spread, verified my medication allergies, and told me she was going to prescribe a seven day course of steroids to treat it (because apparently my reaction was pretty severe for a first reaction).  Hopefully they work because I'm done dealing with this crap!

Oh, and apparently reactions get more severe with each exposure.  So the next time I get it, it will be worse.  Joy.

This morning, I realized that seeking alternative treatments for poison ivy was much like seeking alternative treatments for infertility.  I got to the point of desperation where I was willing to consider anything, even things that seemed "out there" or were potentially unsafe.  It was a weird trip back to that place of desperation, one I hope I don't have to revisit for a long time to come.