Monthly Archives: June 2012

Dangers of the Summer, Part 1

The Best Season is upon us! Summer! Vitamin D in abundance! A respite from Seasonal Affective Disorder! Baseball! Boats! NO SCHOOL! Minimalist Clothing!Beaches! Open mountain passes! No shoveling! No stuck cars! Rafting trips!

Get off the mountain top, stay away from that lone pine tree

In short, everything wonderful about the world is blossoming and blooming and bustin’ out all over. The young Virginia creeper is more than hugging the bejeepers out of his over-sized, highly-inked,  and extremely under-dressed girlfriend  in the park, and you don’t even care. Because it’s summer. (And the  girl actually looks kind of, well, summery).


At risk for Type II diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, unemployment….

Is the summer luring you in just to get you in its trap? Are you setting yourself up for pain, pruritus, burns, encephalitis, drowning or worse?

Keep attuned to The Assassin Bug’s Guide to the Dangers of Summer. In each of the next posts we will be warning you of the perils that may befall the careless, the naive, the foolhardy, the stupid.

Poison Ivy

It’s just a little rash.

Poison Oak

Poison Sumac

These plants, members of the Toxicodendron family, are the nasty friends of a friend that you didn’t want to invite. They can do serious damage to summer lovin’. I spent many, many years being only mildly concerned of this stuff. I didn’t have to worry, because I didn’t seem to react to the stuff. Oh, how life changes! One day, feeling my hands getting a bit itchy, I glanced down to find little blisters in the webs between my fingers (I am part duck). The blisters became progressively itchier. And itchier. And maddening. And weepy. And dammitIcannotstopscratchingandi’mexcoriatingmyself. I went to the derm guy on the hope that I had some fungal  or parasitic infection, because that would definitely be preferable to having to watch out for poison ivy for the rest of my life. Nope, poison ivy. Spread all over my hands.Lasted nigh a fortnight.

But I was lucky!

My poor daughter appears to be allergic from birth. Wicked allergic. She has had an entire half of her face covered in red, weeping bumps that she can’t keep her hands off of. The poor little dear had to be put on prednisone, which was no picnic, either.

SO: You’ve all heard it: Leaves of three, let it be. You may not be allergic to urushiol (the toxic oil in poison ivy), but with enough exposure, you probably will be. There are estimates that from 50%-95% will become allergic to urushiol given enough exposure. Do you want to chance it?


Physical exam: The skin is generally red and swollen. The early stages of plant dermatitis typically present as reddened (erythematous) and swollen (edematous) skin followed by development of small and large blisters (vesicles and bullae, respectively). The blisters may ooze and then crust over with scab formation. Plant dermatitis is commonly seen as streaks or lines of blisters on the arms or legs. In patients with anaphylaxis, swelling of the face, throat, and lips (angioedema); difficulty in breathing; and loss of consciousness may occur.

Guys: wash your hands before you pee. Urushiol is easily transferred from one surface to another. You do not want this stuff on your schwanzstücke.


If you know that you’ve encountered this stuff, wash yourself immediately with Tecnu® or a similar product. If you don’t have a poison ivy soap, rinse the area with rubbing alcohol before using soap and water. Soap just tends to spread the stuff around.


Every year the same patches of poison ivy show up around the schools. Here’s one communiquè regarding this danger:

Getting Rid Of Poison Ivy At Hemenway School

The Buildings and Grounds Department has to abide by regulations that prohibit spraying any weed killer. They are planning to apply a sodium based weed control product in late July and August onto the areas. That is the recommend time for application as it works best in dry conditions. It is non toxic and should dry up the plants. In the meantime, they will inspect the playground for poison ivy growth. If they discover poison ivy growth on the playground they will remove it manually. This puts their workers at risk so it will only be done manually if absolutely necessary.There is poison ivy growth at almost every school along fence boundaries and walking paths. They will place “caution tape” where poison ivy is present near playgrounds. They wish they could do more but laws related to the use of pesticides and herbicides on school grounds is extremely restrictive, as it should be.

Does this only stupify the sane? If this stuff is so dangerous that the staff can’t pull it out without considerable risk, why does the school administration tolerate it being near 6-year-olds? Should we be more afraid of glyphosate (Roundup®) or rashes? As much as I love to hate Monsanto, I think that urushiol poses a greater danger. Opposing opinions welcomed.

And remember, it’s just a little rash…