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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Itching to know why I suddenly am scratching so much

I can tell you where I purchased every single piece of clothing and pair of shoes I own.

I probably can even tell you how much I paid for it.

I know the name of the first 45 rpm record I purchased (“Dancing Queen” by ABBA).

I can remember the color number for the various makeup I purchase (Classic Ivory foundation, 510).

When it comes to produce, I know that the navel oranges marked 4012 are the big, juicier ones. The ones marked 3107 are the cheaper imposters.

With that much knowledge of me and my supplies and history at my fingertips, it’s shocking that I have absolutely no clue where I contracted the skin condition that has left my legs looking like I need the surgical ward.

I’ve mentioned my hate/hate relationship with bugs before.

When I get stung by a mosquito or some of their bug brethren, I’m left with huge, swollen welts.

It wasn’t always that way. No, I was like most of you. When I’d get stung it would be an irritating little dot that itched for a few days and then faded away.

Something happened, though.

It’s possible that it’s just that I got older. Now when I get a bug bite, it nearly consumes the appendage where it shows up.

But what happened over Labor Day weekend has left me in a quandary.

And, in pain.

And, itching like I’m about to go insane.

My co-workers were so grossed out by Wednesday, they told me to go to the doctor.

I’m not an alarmist. If I get sick, I usually just accept the fact and go about my business. 

But my co-workers’ freaking out and screaming the words “infection” and “staph” made me a little concerned, so off I went.

When I said that it first appeared late Sunday night, the doctor asked where I’d been over the weekend.

I detailed my trip to the Great Geauga County Fair (nowhere near the animal barns, and no walks through grassy areas); a party at a friend’s house (standing in the kitchen and sitting out on a pretty great brick deck in the dark); and scratching my legs on Monday during an excursion for groceries.

I told her I figured I got eaten alive at my friend’s house.

“This doesn’t look like bug bites. This is poison ivy.”

“I didn’t walk through any grass or rub up against any plants all weekend.”

“I like to think I’m right.”

Me too. I mean, you have way more medical knowledge than me, after all. I just watched “ER” a lot.
It didn’t really matter, anyway.

She told me it was too localized for her to give me a shot or steroids, and that I should take an allergy pill. She said she’d only go those routes if it continued to spread and went near my eyes or mouth.

I’ve gotten a lot of advice from friends over the past few days.

Some seems like wives-tale stuff.

Meat tenderizer. Fels Naptha soap. Witch hazel.

Some just sound like pure torture.

I found out just how tough Laketran General Manager Ray Jurkowski is when he told me during a phone call that he once scrubbed poison ivy on his leg with a rough washcloth, then poured bleach on it.

“I thought my head was going to pop off,” Jurkowski said.

As I sit here and type this, the itching has subsided. You wouldn’t know by looking at it that I haven’t really scratched my legs since Monday. I figured it would only make it worse. Trust me, it was a test.

I passed, but just barely.

But what really bugs me is I have no clue how to avoid getting it again, because I don’t know where I contracted it.

Someone told me they contracted it from a bonfire. Something burning in the fire had the oil from the poison ivy on it, and it spread on the ashes. She had it in her eyes and other places she said I “didn’t want to know.”

Probably so.

Again, I wasn’t anywhere near a fire.

I remember the old adage “leaves of three, let it be.”

But again, just where were those three? Who knows.

This week I discovered, and its stash of truly disgusting photos depicting examples of poison ivy. Luckily, I’m not there yet.

I did find some advice for what to do once you have it — don’t wash it with hot water, because it will irritate it and also open the pores to absorb more of the oils we discussed earlier. One expert also said to throw away the clothes you were wearing when you think you contracted it.

It doesn’t say what to do if you were wearing the same skirt as you wore the night you think you did to the doctor’s office where it was diagnosed.


So far no more has sprouted. But, there’s a three-week incubation period. I’m not sure if I’m at the beginning or end.

So, if you see me and notice a little issue on my legs, now you know why.

I’m going to excuse myself now so I can concentrate on not scratching.


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