Monday, May 19, 2008

Small Bears Can Get Poison Ivy

Photo of poison ivy by Flickr user cpurrin1, used under a Creative Commons license. Deceptively purty, isn't it?

My little Bear has poison ivy on his face, which almost got into his eyes, and I was too much of a dumbcluck to recognize it.

He turned up middle of last week with a small scratch on the bridge of his nose, next to his left eye, which he oddly claimed was a mosquito bite. That should've tripped my suspicions. Instead, I took him at his word while the skin around his right eye, too, began to turn purplish and reddish. He had a tummy ache, and at first I thought he was just getting a variation of the swollen bruised raccoon look that usually announces he's coming down with some bug.

A day later, my husband finally suggested it could be poison ivy. This reflects especially pathetically on me because he grew up in a land where stinging nettles were the harshest plant around. I spent my most formative years (from 16 to 25) living in California in places rife with poison oak.

For what it's worth, I've never had poison ivy or poison oak, probably because I'm too timid about leaving the path when I venture into any sort of wilderness. (This includes my own backyard.) Also I never once saw it in North Dakota, my childhood abode, where the harsh winters "keep out the riff-raff" - and while as a child I thought that meant lazy people and hoboes, and as an adult I put a less charitable spin on it, now I realize it maybe just meant all leaves-of-three plants.

So I'm honestly ignorant. Again, for what it's worth, which is pretty much jack shit when it comes to your kid's eyes.

I do realize that identification of poison ivy is not rocket science. But first you need to know at least generally where its victim picked it up. I'm fretting it might be lurking along the treeline at the back of our yard.

We've been applying cortisone and the swelling has gone down. The Bear's eyes are fine. I'm still shaky when I think about how he complained about itchy eyes on Friday and I chalked it all up to his playing on the computer for too long.

The one good thing that came from this was a small bearish epiphany. Saturday, when he was truly miserable, he said: "Mama! Someone ought to invent a vaccine for poison ivy. That way it would only hurt once and you wouldn't be able to get it for ten years." This from a kid who hates needles more than anything! Okay, that probably just shows how miserable he was. And yet, it's cool to see my eight-year-old beginning to think in long-term, lesser-evil terms.


Sugarmag said...

Oh, poor guy! Don't beat yourself up over this Sungold, it's easy to not recognize symptoms, we've all done it. A poison ivy vaccine is a very good idea.

Sungold said...

Thanks, Sugar Mag. I know, we've all been there. And if it weren't next to his eyes, I'd be much more sanguine. I feel like we did get lucky this time.

J.B. Kochanie said...


Glad that the Bear is OK. I agree with sugarmag: don't beat yourself up on this. Children constantly fight off colds and flu, which supposedly is the way that their immune system is strengthened. If you are stressed because you are trying to meet a tight deadline for a project, it's so easy to miss an unusual symptom.

I hope the poison ivy was not in your backyard. I was thinking of your lovely garden and hoped that you were not going to suffer the same itching and swelling as Bear.

I don't know if you remember the series LA Law. In one episode two of the lawyers decided to enjoy the glories of nature and spend the weekend camping in the California wilderness. One of the lawyers did not recognize a patch of poison ivy and used the leaves as makeshift toilet paper. :-0

Sungold said...

Thanks to you, too, Kochanie, for telling me to ease off myself. And yeah, I agree about the immune system. But poison ivy is different - it's an allergic-type overreaction of the immune system, as far as I understand it.

I *think* the poison ivy might be in the wild vegetation at the back of the yard. It's definitely not among the flowers, or I'd know. I've actually wondered if I might be immune - my dad seems to be.

Great story from LA Law - I do remember it, though I didn't watch much. But a college boyfriend and his best buddy had a similar experience, except they just got poison oak on their hands while hiking and then did one of those male-bonding, pee on the wilderness things, which resulted in them having to visit the student health center. They were still so young that the embarrassment of having to drop trou for the female doctor on duty was apparently worse than the itching and burning.