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I’ve been allergic to poison ivy since I was a child. I remember being covered in calamine lotion and being miserable. Anyone who has this allergy knows what I’m talking about—it’s not fun!

Since I avoid the plant, when I get it, it’s usually from someone else, like my husband. But the last few times Mark was not responsible. Bentley, our dog, was.

She loves to walk along the side of the road sniffing every plant, and unfortunately some of those plants are poison ivy. The first time I got the itchy rash with no contact with the three shiny leaves, I realized that the culprit was the dog. Though she has no ill effects from the plant, the oil stays on her hair and spreads to anyone who touches it—that would be me. The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the oil doesn’t seem to stay contagious for very long. If I touch her at the end of the day, I don’t seem to get itchy. At least I think that is true.

A while ago I discovered a great way to stop the itching. Heat. A hair dryer pointed at the rash will create a strange feeling that actually stops the itching for hours, and it works far better than calamine lotion.

A few years ago, our daughter, Olivia, caught poison ivy for the first time and was miserable. Telling her about my hair dryer trick brought a smile back on her face.

The following day, she came home from work at her internship with a funny expression. She described being in the ladies room with her skirt hiked up and her portable hairdryer pointed at the rash on her thighs, when one of the bathroom stalls opened and out walked her boss. The big boss. The woman in charge of the entire organization. The boss who'd she'd only just met. The woman regarded Olivia, then the hairdryer, and then at what she was doing with the contraption, and, without saying anything, about-faced to the sink.

Taken aback, Olivia started to try to explain. But it was clear it was too complicated and the big boss, not really interested turned to clean her hands, shook them out, dried them, and exited.

Awkward! But the hairdryer did its thing and the itching stopped for a time.

During last weekend's walk with Bentley, I bent down at the same time she looked up at me and her head collided with my neck and chin. Two days later the lower part of my face was covered with poison ivy and it got worse. My face started to swell and the rash was now bright red and oozing. I was miserable and grumpy. I am not a good sick person.

Once poison ivy starts, it doesn’t stop, and the spread was on! My arm and ankles were starting to itch. The only solution: drugs. But it was Sunday so I had to go to a walk-in emergency care center to get a prescription of prednisone. The doctor looked at me, nodded as I told him why I was there and what I wanted. “Yes, you’re right,” he said, “prednisone is the only thing that works. I better give you the heavy dose to make sure you actually get rid of this!”

As I write, the swelling and the itchiness have started to subside and I can finally put my hairdryer away.

Poison Ivy does do some good things. It is good food for birds, but what birds eat they also eliminate. If you remove all the poison ivy from your property, the birds will bring it back with their excrement. So doing your best to avoid it is really the best thing to do.

When I was young, I discovered another great remedy: France. The country doesn’t have poison ivy so a quick trip there works magically and the rash disappears.

I sincerely hope you won’t need any of this information but just in case . . .


Bon Appétit
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