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29 December 2008 @ 06:25 pm
Poison Oak Rules  

I got into an herbology website (J.K. Rowling has ruined my vocabulary forever, I'll never be able to call it "botany" again), and that led to me doing searches on poison ivy and poison oak, because I'm really not comfortable with my ability to identify them.  This is probably not that huge of an issue, as I go out into the wilderness about as often as a farmbred veal these days.  But anyway.  One site I found, which was entirely devoted to poison oak, posted the following rules, which amused me greatly:
ETIQUETTE

Because Poison Oak is one of the worst afflictions mankind must suffer, there must be rules of etiquette for dealing with it.

If you have never had poison oak:
  • You may not joke about it.
  • You can not say, "Don't you know what it looks like?"
  • You may not offer your advice on how to treat it.
  • You must show nothing but sympathy, and if it is feigned it must seem genuine.
  • Absolutely no smirking!
  • You are not allowed to intimate that the person who has Poison Oak deserved it, or is afflicted due to incompetence on their part.
If you are immune:
  • All of the above rules apply to you.
  • You may never boast of your immunity, and especially never touch poison oak to demonstrate your immunity.  I heard of a man who ate a poison oak leaf to show off.  This is a justifiable motive for homicide.
  • If you can not follow the above guidelines, please kill yourself now.
If you have had poison oak:
  • You must show sympathy, and tell anecdotes about how bad you had it.
  • You may joke and laugh, as long as you make it known that you feel very deep sorrow at the affliction.
  • Feel free to imply that all immune people should be exterminated off the face of the earth.

I'm assuming that the rule about not offering advice for treatment has something to do with the fact that it doesn't take more than a half an hour to look up every possible home and prescribed remedy.  That's half an hour of real time, and roughly ten minutes of afflicted-with-Poison-Oak time.  (I respect their use of capitals.)

The bit about it getting into your bloodstream has been outed as a myth.  Yeah.  I kinda WANT that to be a myth.  It does seem to be true that a person who is immune can become sensitive through repeated exposure.  And the idea that poison oak is worse than poison ivy is debatable, apparently.

I kind of like some of the identification tips for poison ivy like, if you see thorns, it's probably a wild blackberry, NOT poison ivy.  Because, dude.  Poison ivy does Not.  Need.  Thorns.

I also like the theory about how the myth that smoking poison ivy can create an immunity to it was spread by vengeful Native Americans among the white men.  I'm not sure I'd be able to follow the etiquette completely for someone who got poison ivy or oak by smoking the stuff deliberately, although burning it is a pretty common error.

Urushiol, the toxic sap found in these plants, apparently makes a nice lacquer.

And if you want to know what got me off on the herbology tangent, go here and check out the Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook.  It falls prey to the flaws of the honest alternative medication practitioner, which is to say, he says stuff like, "Hey, this MIGHT work for you," a whole lot, but it's still very interesting.  And he does make a very good point about prune juice.

Hey, nature icon!
 
 
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Радаdigitalemur on December 29th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
Anybody who is currently immune to poison oak should just shut the fuck up on pain of potentially becoming sensitive later. I'm not poison ivy sensitive but lemme tell ya, I know that could change at ANY time and I know not to fuck with the stuff.
Harfafnorharfafnor on December 29th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
I am so allergic to the stuff I can walk through a patch of poison oak and break out. I know they mentioned this somewhere, but, being so allergic I learned at a very early age to identify both. Poison Ivy grows in a vine, and the vine doesn't have to have leaves either, the sap runs all year round. Posion Oak growns in little tree like plants covering the ground. The ivy is named because it resembles the ivy you see people plant for looks. The oak because it looks like little oak trees. The leaves are different though. There is one that grows in Louisiana that you didn't mention, Posion Sumac, it is like 10 times worse than either of the others. I've found that treatment works different for different people. There are shots you can get. For me, those take 3 or 4 days to clear it up. Calamine lotion helps with the itch but that's about it, still takes 3 to 5 days to clear it up. My personal favorite treatment is a shower in as hot water as I can take almost burning point. It eases my itching for some time and yes, it still takes 3 to 5 days to clear up.
Sealgair, sometimes Celtic Maenadsealgair on December 29th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
This is how I understand it:
the eventual sensitivity is true for *all* allergens. Histamine in the bloodstream is cumulative: if you have one allergy badly and one mildly, being exposed to both (pet dander & tomatoes for instance) will make your reaction to *both* worse. Also, each exposure to an allergen adds to your bloodstream what is essentially an antibody, but opposite to viral antibodies, each exposure actually makes you just a little more likely to react to not only *that* allergen, but to *any* allergen. BUT, because they *are* like antibodies is why some people grow out of allergies, and why allergy shots work.

That last sentence I'm less sure about than the rest. So yes, I agree with the above folks. I may have been immune to Poison Ivy in the past, but I've developed other allergies since my last known exposure - I don't wanna touch the stuff now for sure!
Saraphina, born to speak all mirth and no matter: CA Poppysaraphina_marie on December 30th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
I have gotten Poison Oak in the bloodstream, I mean I got it on my skin too, but it also got into my bloodstream and it was bad. Very very bad. Requiring doctor's visits and a couple of shots bad and several days missed of school bad.

Conversely, I seem to be immune to Poison Ivy. Had no idea what it looked like (they don't have it in CA to my knowledge and they don't have Poison Oak in TN) and totally tromped right through many patches much to the terror of my students, but I have never had a reaction.