Life is full of risks. Fortunately disaster seldom happens, or we would never travel in a car or fly in a plane. We would never eat out because restaurant food might give us salmonella. We would stay in our homes with the doors locked and the blinds pulled down.
I take a risk whenever I hike through a forest. I’m allergic to poison ivy. I developed an allergy to this evil plant in my teens. My symptoms? A blistery itchy rash that drives me crazy, especially in the middle of the night!
Throughout my adult years my allergic reactions worsened, usually requiring one or two trips to a doctor for doses of steroids in order to get over it. The only preventative advice the doctors ever give me is “stay away from poison ivy.” They always smile after they say it. I think what they really mean is,”Good luck with that.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eighty-five percent of the U. S. population is allergic to poison ivy. I guess I’m in good company. The above link offers more specific details about how to identify the plant.
Over the years I’ve become more adept at avoiding poison ivy by walking in the middle of any trail. I usually stay on the look-out. Remember the old saying, “Leaves of three, let it be.” However, my last adventure included scrambling over boulders in Shenandoah National Park. Scrambling involves using your hands and feet to move vertically. When I grabbed hold of a rock to steady my balance, I touched a strange vine.
Let’s put it this way, I was between a rock and a hard place. I wanted to keep myself from breaking a leg. Touching the weird vine was a total accident. A day later I was symptomatic.
Although I always wear long sleeves and pants when I hike, I’ve learned that the oil (urushiol) of the plant clings to your clothes and shoes. Have you ever tried to change your clothes without touching them? It’s not an easy process.
By the way, urushiol can also cling to a dog’s fur. Buddy wasn’t with me on this trip, so I can’t blame the family dog for my irritation.
Every time I hike in the woods or take a camping trip I put myself in danger. So far I haven’t decided to stop being “mother nature’s child.” The trails are too inviting, the trees too alluring. At this point I’ve decided to accept the risks that go with my choices.
As I write this I’m sure many people are struggling with making decisions about their spring break and summer vacations. The coronavirus appears to be more deadly than poison ivy. Maybe spending time in the wilderness and away from crowds is the right vacation for you this year. Accept the risks that go with your choices. At least you can’t spread poison ivy to other people.
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” —Helen Keller