Apparently I am very allergic to poison ivy. I did some yard-work over a week ago. I wore long sleeves and short gloves. In the gap between the gloves and shirt, something got me. I didn’t see any poison ivy in the zebra grass I was cutting down. A few days later I had small patch of itchy bumps on my right wrist. I didn’t think much of it.
The trick is, I sleep with my right arm under my pillow. And the next night I flipped my pillow. I also sleep with an eye mask. On Thursday I noticed one red bump on my eyelid and wondered if I was getting a stye. On Friday my whole face and neck had blown up with a full-on itchy rash.
I called my dermatologist’s office on Friday and made a tele-health appointment. She confirmed it was an allergic reaction rash and prescribed some topical ointments, not wanting to put me on steroids, as it would weaken my immune response, and we’re living through a pandemic right now. I asked if I was contagious. She said no.
My father is legend in my mind for his cases of poison ivy. I’ve seen him suffer with it more times than I care to remember. So, my mom is kind of like an ivy expert. She told me to wash my clothes and bedding. Which I did. But it was kind of too late.
By Saturday the rash was even more intense and still spreading. I called the dermatologist’s office and requested that steroid prescription. Oh, and my son showed signs of the rash on his cheek. From his pillow. Which at some point during the week I had put beneath my face before I knew I was about to explode with a rash.
So, poison ivy isn’t anything new. I’m not in the first generation of people to suffer from it. I spread it to myself because I didn’t scrub my arms when I came inside, because I didn’t think I had reason to. I didn’t change my clothes after the yard-work was complete because I wanted to go for a bike ride later and figured not to mess up another set of clothes. I spread the urushiol to my face and body. And when I called the doctor, I was not entirely fully advised. She prescribed meds, but didn’t tell me what to wash or clean. I passed it on to my son, who is also allergic, before I knew I was infected.
If the coronavirus was visible, would we behave differently? Would we be more careful? Some of us are growing restless and eager to get back to life as we knew it. To cover up our hair roots before anyone finds out what color our hair actually is. Some of us aren’t wearing the masks we’re supposed to in stores. Security guards are being shot over this? Really? We’re not respecting each other by staying 6 feet apart. Sure, not everyone will erupt in illness. But some will. And some of us will unknowingly pass it on to a stranger or loved one.
I miss hugs. I miss friends. I miss browsing through antique stores. I miss shopping on impulse. I miss the endless track meets in inclement weather I should be suffering through this season. But I’m not ready to break through the safety net of my home. I’m simply not interested in playing roulette with my lungs. It’s not a fear of life that keeps me home. It’s a respect for life that keeps me home.
For now, it’s easy to imagine that people outside of my home are poison ivy. And I am very, very allergic.