Sunday, 4 October 2009

Poison ivy

Well, it had to happen sooner or later I suppose; Littleboy 1 has had a nasty brush with poison ivy.

One morning, we noticed that one side of his face had come up in a red, blistery rash with telltale scratches along it. One of his fingers was also badly affected, and there was a scratch on one leg - but then new blisters started popping up everywhere. Eventually he was dragged to the paediatrician (as that's what you do here - there are GPs, but they won't see kids), and prescribed oral steriods to dampen down the immune response. This felt quite draconian, but the paediatrician says we need to get on top of it, as it's a bad reaction. Meanwhile he's been incredibly brave, and in spite of the rash has behaved as his usual irrepressible self, bouncing around and playing with his beloved grandfather, who has been staying with us.

One of the most annoying things about poison ivy, which I hadn't known, is that the reaction is not instant, like good old British stinging nettles. It takes a few days to develop, so you don't automatically know which plant did the deed.

This is deeply frustrating. Ever since we've been here, I've been aware that there might be poison ivy around. But I've never been entirely sure about the plant. Obviously, I've looked at pictures on the internet, and know that it has three leaves, but there is an awful lot of ivy around here, and many similar-looking plants. Even local people haven't been entirely sure when asked to point it out. I've since found whole websites where people have posted photos of their backyards asking "is this it?"

So, I still don't know where exactly the culprit was (although I have my suspicions). But in a way it's amazing that it hasn't happened before, as Littleboy 1 is always throwing himself in bushes and undergrowth, both deliberately and accidentally. I suppose I'd grown cavalier about it - he never seemed to hurt himself, and so I didn't want playing in bushes to become yet another thing I have to constantly scold him about.

Now it's a different story. "Don't touch that plant," I nagged him as we walked in woods at the weekend. "Don't touch anything with leaves," I shouted as both boys shot off down some winding path. "In fact, don't touch ANYTHING green."

Ah, the joys of nature....


Muddling Along Mummy said...

Ouch... sounds horrid but I loved your 'don't touch anything green' comment - LOL !

Almost American said...

Be careful about touching him, and make sure to wash his clothes well (not in cold water) or others in the family may get the rash too! Given that he has it on his legs, (if it's not too cold) keep him in shorts for a bit longer.

I STILL can't identify poison ivy, but the kids can - IF they're paying attention, which of course they often aren't!

DH had a friend when he was younger who boasted about the fact that he didn't react to poison ivy. Then the silly @$$ decided to eat some! He ended up in the emergency room!

Lorna Harris said...

I can't identify poison ivy either but we've never had an encounter like your son. Hope he recovers quickly.

I didn't know about not touching someone or their clothes (thanks Almost American!)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

One of the things I didn't realise I would miss is the benign English countryside. I don't want to be the mother that doesn't let her kids explore the great outside. I want my boys to go crashing through undergrowth making camps, sticking sticks in holes, doing all those boy things that they do.

But the tick season has started and there's a lot of lyme disease and the like round here, there are snakes all over the place and a whole load of poisonous plants. So now I panic every time I see them head into the 'green stuff'.

Poor LB1. Poison Ivy rash is really nasty. Hope he is feeling better soon.

Nota Bene said...

Oh. Poor lad. Was so hopping this was going to be a batman story.

Janet said...

Oh, dear, I know well the horrors of poison ivy. It's easy to spot---bright green, with three leaves. As a child, I learned to stay well clear of it. Once he gets beyond the ten-day mark, it begins to get better.

When Capt. John Smith named it poison ivy, he didn't exaggerate. If your clothes brush against the plant, the oil (that's the culprit) is deposited on them, and five years later it can still cause a rash.

You can't get a rash from touching someone's rash. If you think you've been exposed, very quickly douse the area with rubbing alcohol, and the oil won't penetrate the skin.

Iota said...

Poor him. And poor you - these things are much more alarming in a new country. I remember reading the side of a tube of anti-histamine cream, and wondering what poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac were. I haven't yet had experience of any of them - thank goodness.

I think part of the problem when you move abroad is that you have to learn all these things from pictures on the internet, and it's just not the same as building up knowledge over time. You say even local people can't identify poison ivy, but they would have more idea of what to keep their children away from, and how to recognise and treat the rash. We carry a lot of this kind of knowledge from our own childhoods, and you have to start from scratch in a new country. (I know you grew up in Hong Kong, so you probably have knowledge of what the dangers are there, rather than wasps, bees, midges, nettles and the other things that threaten us in the British countryside).

Reading this post made me go back and read one I wrote on a similar theme. I hope you don't think I'm publicising my own blog in your comments box, but I thought you might be interested to read it. Here's the link:

I hope Littleboy 1 gets better soon, and that it doesn't quell his spirit of adventure.

mothership said...

Oh, SO sorry, that is awful. We don't get poison ivy here, but we do get poison oak which is similarly ghastly. There is a lot of poison ivy at my dad's place in Virginia and they keep on hand tons of this stuff called Tecnu which you can get at the drugstore. There is both stuff that you rub on your skin beforehand to protect it, and also that you use as a wash after contact (or suspected contact) which removes the oil (that's what gives you the rash). It also works on clothing,tools, whatever. I recommend it highly. Keep some on hand and use it liberally, even if you just THINK they might have romped in some,
And your doc is right about the steroids. They can make one very grumpy/angry, so if he gets into fearful tempers, don't be too surprised. Poor little thing!

mothership said...

btw. thanks for your really great and to the point comment xo

nappy valley girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nappy valley girl said...

Muddling - Green is the colour of evil. Now I know why all witches have green faces....

Almost American - thank you. Believe me, I have washed everything now.

Lorna - thank you. He is already much better.

Brit in Bosnia - there are ticks here, too.That will be the next thing....

NB - sorry to disappoint you. Loads of Batman stuff comes up when you google Poison Ivy.

Janet - the problem round here is that there is loads of ivy, all green and many types appear to have three leaves - so when you look in the undergrowth it's hard to spot.Still, I am far more vigilant now.

Iota - thanks for your sympathetic words. Read your post - it was excellent, made a really good point. He's already much better now, thank goodness, and it doesn't seem to have affected his pioneering spirit!

Mothership - thanks. I've invested in several anti-poison ivy washes from the pharmacist, and bathing him in Aveeno oatmeal also seems to help. The steriods definitely help, although it was a very low dose. My new worry, of course, is that they will make him vulnerable to swine flu....worry never stops with children does it. And you're welcome for the comment - it was just the first thing that I thought of, really.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, how rotten for him and how frightening for you. Have a admit I don't know much about it. Not sure it's something I've come across before. Sounds like that's a good thing.

Expat mum said...

I was talking to an American this morning who's just come back from England. She mentioned being stung by nettles and how much less dangerous it was than Poison Ivy. I suppose that's a good way to look at it!

Anonymous said...

If they're getting poison ivy all over themselves - or will be when summer comes again - then you need to start having them wash with soap and water every day, preferably several times a day. Poison ivy rash comes from an oil. It spreads. So if you get some on your hands, and then touch your face... not fun.

With poison ivy, you're not just looking for leaves-of-three (with the middle leaf on a longer stem than the other two, and remember that the clusters alternate), you're also remembering hairy vine, no friend of mine. Poison ivy, aside from having the aforementioned leaves-of-three everything else has, also has a copiously hairy vine. Pretty unmistakeable once you see the two of them together, but if you only know about the three leaves thing you'll be scared, as you were, of nearly everything.

Of course, that's assuming your problem really was poison ivy. Still, if so, the leaves should be red now (or soon) and then you'll be able to put on gloves and rip out that ugly hairy vine all over the place.