“You're gonna need an ocean … of calamine lotion.
You'll be scratching like a hound
The minute you start to mess around with …
The Poison Ivy song – the Coasters
With all of our complaints and comments about the natural hazards in Australia (and Lord knows there are many), we tend to forget that we've got a few around here, too. With all the rain and humidity, miserable mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus have been thick and hungry. Black flies and no see 'ems at this time of year can drive you crazy. Ticks which carry Lyme Disease are everywhere. All of these you can see and avoid with insect repellent if you're diligent.
Poison ivy, though, is pretty sneaky and insidious. It kind of lies in wait in forests, along the roadside, stretching and crawling along old stonewalls, and rearing its shiny green leaves near ripening blackberry bushes. It waits and waits until an unwitting person, like me for instance, brushes against its leaves with a sandaled foot or bare arm and WHAM … a couple days later you're itching like crazy. Actually, the plant resin can remain on your clothes or on your dog's fur and get you days after. We learned this rhyme as kids: “Leaves of three … let it be.”
One of the rites of summer as a child involved at least one major bout with poison ivy that required slathering on calamine lotion and listening to our moms warn us not to scratch. Right … as if we could resist scratching till we were raw … and even after scratching, the itch still persisted and nearly drove us crazy. It wasn't pretty: blisters and ooze between our toes and fingers, on our legs and arms; no body surface or orifice was safe.
So, why do I mention this? Yes, you guessed it. I've got poison ivy. I traipsed off the road to get a photo of a stonewall and … well, let's just say I'm itchin'.