Saturday, May 2, 2009

Poison Ivy

I just did a monster job. I ripped up more than 100 pounds of it. I think I am going to raise my rates for poison ivy removal. I will however consider a discount if it is requested during the fall or winter or very, very, early spring.

You see, poison ivy is one of those weeds I have to admire. It is lovely. The leaves are nicely shaped and shiny. The vines gracefully wraps itself around trees and fenceposts and arcs out like the snakes on Medusa's head. The vines have these furry brown roots that look almost soft. In the fall the leaves turn into the prettiest red. And by winter the whites berries cluster like miniature grapes, which bird love to eat which helps distribute their seeds.

I am very familiar with this plant. I have encountered it in every stage of its life extensively when I was an archaeological field technician. I never had to go to the hospital because of it but I knew many that did. I have been driven close to madness when I had a few bad cases. Well, maybe not madness but it infuriated me.

When I remove poison ivy I assume that I will get a rash. I suppose that there have been a few times that I have not, when it's been a small job but even then I take every precaution. My reaction to exposure is not uniform. Sometimes it is like a few mosquito bites, others, like right now, it is much, much worse. I think I was a bit foolhardy this spring because it's been a while since I had a good rash. I actually got a small blister on my lip! That's a first. I suppose that the fact that a few of those vines whipped my face are good cause for that! It's a small blister, but I look like I have herpes.

So how do I treat this? The best treatment is prevention. First thing, I wear gloves. Really, I should have been wearing elbow length impermeable disposable gloves but I was being stupid. I wore my standard nitrile gloves because it was warm out. Secondly, I wash all potentially exposed skin with technu, a special urushiol oil remover. I have decided, as of the completion of this job that I will wash with technu every hour on the hour. Usually I do not spend more than an hour doing this sort of thing. I also shower and wash with technu the rest of my body. We're talking a major scrub and re-scrub here.

After that, I wait. Usually it takes a few days, sometimes 3 or more for my to react. This is quite fortunate, but this time around it took 20 hours. When the first blisters appear, I wash again with technu, this time on the areas affected. Then I wait til more blisters appear. When I have a good idea of where I am infected and it starts to make me a little crazy, that's when I use zanfel. Most people that are P.I. savvy know about technu, but most have not heard of zanfel. I will quote directly from their site,
"Zanfel™ Poison Ivy Wash is a safe and effective topical solution for poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. It is the only product known to remove urushiol, the toxin responsible for the reaction, from the skin after bonding, enabling the affected area to immediately begin healing. After using Zanfel, the itching and pain are the first things to be relieved, usually within 30 seconds."

Zanfel is expensive, but I swear by it. It does not always irradicate all poison ivy, indeed, I tend to use it as last resort because I am OK with a little itch if only to remind me to be more cautious next time so when I use zanfel, I almost always need 2 treatments. This time around I think it will be 3. The cheapest source of poison ivy protection, including the hard to find zanfel is CSP Outdoors. I have bought technu by the quart from them, and of course they have zanfel.

I hope that some people out there will have a better poison ivy experience after reading this post. I also hope that my clients will read this and NOT casually ask me to remove poison ivy from their garden bed. If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it is a client who is oblivious to my suffering.

I am adding to this post rather than starting a new one because I decided that this blog though primarily based in reality is a bit of a fantasy. The photos of my garden are windows of bliss. I don't show works in progress that are ugly. The actual photos of myself might look a bit better than what I do in real life, though that depends on the day and whether it is dark out etc... so to me, poison ivy is one of those realities that I try to pretend doesn't exist, but every once in a while I have to acknowledge it.

Poison ivy has the most urushiol oil in its roots. Urushiol oil is probably the most concentrated in the spring when it comes out of dormancy. That is why I probably got it so bad this time around. When I severed the vines, there was literally sap dripping from the vines, like water. Think about the sap runs of maple syrup. Generally, sap is collected a few weeks before the buds burst open. Maple comes out of dormancy a few weeks before poison ivy does. If I wanted to collect a chemical weapon, I could tap poison ivy vines in mid-april. Those shiny leaves that have not yet lost their initial blush of red are extra potent.

1 comment:

Der Geis said...

id't think my yard had that much poison ivy in it but I was wrong and have been suffering quite thoroughly for a week now.

Next time, it's full bio-warfare gear.