Poison Ivy. I had heard about it for years, and now I too have had the opportunity to experience it. Yippee.! All this time, I thought that perhaps I was immune. Unfortunately I am not. This is the horror story of my three week and counting adventure with poison ivy. Some of the things I used worked, and some did not. Because my friends were amazed at how nasty I looked and how long I have had it, I thought I should share. I hope you don’t get itchy just reading this.
It began when I found small bumps on my arm, which of course I couldn’t really identify. A real case of ignorance is bliss. Because the poison ivy ended up only on my forearms, weeding the rose hedge is the probable source. Obviously the poison ivy has snuck over from the infestation in the privet hedge. The bumps appeared six days after the weeding. Within three days it was all over both forearms and was itchy painful. I used my husband’s remedy of putting bleach on the spots as they itched. .
On the morning of the fourth day I went to the store and found a cortisone cream which would allegedly ease the itching. The bleach was just not enough. I was putting it on constantly and using a Q-tip rather than a cotton ball, to try to confine the places that it burned my skin. My fore arms were pink all over. I hadn’t slept for more than 4 hours at a stretch at night, because of the pinpricks of itch or pain in my arms. By that afternoon I was in enough agony that I went to the Doctor. Yep it was poison ivy. Have a shot of prednisone as well as a prescription for pills to be taken all at one time of the day, with a meal. Take 4 pills for 3 days, 3 pills for 4 days, 2 pills for 4 days and 1 pill for 4 days. While I drove to the pharmacy I did the math – 3 times 12 is 36. Anything to keep my mind occupied. My friends gave me great hope for success since the same treatment had worked for them wonderfully well.
Along with the pills I got some over the counter calamine lotion. I remember the song from my youth about needing an ocean of it. At first I used Q-tips to put drops of bleach on the little itchy spots that were trying to ooze every time they itched. Then it was the calamine lotion. The cortisone cream smothered the itch and made the spot hotter and painful. The only real comfort was when I washed my arms in cool water. After two days I realized that I needed to be more consistent with treatment.
This is what worked sort of. Four times a day (that includes once in the middle of the night when the itching woke me up) I would soap my forearms; rinse them with cold waterl; pat them dry with a paper towel each; sit in front of a mirror daubing on calamine lotion with a cotton ball; adding cortisone cream to the scabs so they wouldn’t leave scars. Before I went to bed at night I would take a pain pill from left over pills that we have saved from various surgeries. Some of them were over ten years old. I used the oldest first. Yes I know that that was wrong. I also know that I had to do something so I could sleep or I would totally lose it.
When I say sleep I am half joking. In spite of taking pain pills, I was up at 3:00 a.m. pretty much every night, daubing my arms. The pricking in the night woke me up and still does. Between the pain and the inability of my brain to shut down, I missed a lot of sleep. Since both of my forearms were covered all around with spots, there was no way to rest either of my arms on the bed. I slept either with my wrist resting on the drawer of my bedside table and my forearm hanging in the air between it and the bed. I spent several nights on my back holding a book on my chest with both hands. I read until I slept and waking read more, until it was time to put medicine on my arms. My friend had given me some mysteries about a Detective named Gently. Although they were hardbacks, they were slim and would stay upright when I dozed or even slept. I read and re read pages until my mind would shut off enough to sleep. When I could finally fall asleep, I rested my hands on the drawer of a bedside table, with my arms suspended in the air.
The prednisone and the consistent medication regimen gradually began to work – very gradually. Unfortunately the prednisone left me wanting to clean in detail and to do a million other things. I would start in one room and get distracted by something in the other room and so I was off to the races. Multi tasking is over rated! I really couldn’t focus on anything and there were a million things I wanted to do. I can understand how people have bad reactions to medication and get crazy. During this time period, my cat had dental surgery and came home to be on a special diet. I put together and had printed the Lace Group newsletter and did a zillion things. I could get so much done because I couldn’t sleep. I also submitted two articles to Associated Content that it took me twice as long as usual to write.
Eventually the spots on my arms quit oozing and began to dry up. I would occasionally use witch hazel to ease the drybness. But the scabs which formed where the oozy places had been, were tender and the idea of scraping one accidentally was painful. Wearing long sleeves was out of the question, so going out in public, meant that I looked like I had the pox. Fifteen days after my first visit to the doctor, I returned. Everything I was doing to keep the scabs moist, in reality dried them out. I came home with a prescription for napping pills. Oh no, I mean a bottle of antihistamines, as well as a new salve and soap. Aquaphor, the salve is over the counter, but the pharmacist had it hidden away. The soap is an oatmeal bar from Aveno. I continue to wash my arms four times a day and put the calamine lotion on the itchy, sore spots. The prednisone is about out of my system and I am only trying to do as much as a normal person can. I have fewer grandiose plans of things I can do.
I had an allergic reaction to the antihistamine giving me what looks like diaper rash. A+D Ointment – a diaper rash treatment is helping a bunch,. Of course it is white and messy, but it does seem to be taking care of things. I slept through one night when I took the antihistamine, but won’t take it again. I am down to about five dime sized scabs on each forearm, that are starting to disappear into bright pink spots which will fade.
My suggestions for treatment of poison ivy are as follows. Wash with Fels naptha Soap every time you come in from being exposed. Either wash your clothes in hot water or throw them away. My husband’s train friends say to use Ivy Dry on any spots. At the least Calamine lotion, with the possibility of bleach until everything dries out. Then use the Aquaphore on the scabs and Diaper rash ointment for the residual itch. Good luck.