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This morning's Wall Street Journal has an article on the front page of the Personal Journal section on the Least Welcome Sign of Summer. One hopeful sign for me is that it says that sensitivity declines with age. BUT, it also notes that people go many years with no reaction and then develop a severe reaction - that's me! I had no reaction to poison oak (what we have on the Left Coast, especially California), poison ivy (found everywhere east of the Rockies, though starting to spread westward), and poison sumac (mostly swampy areas, such as the Deep South). I had encountered all three during my moves around the country and no reaction. I could participate in trail building and maintenance projects and carry bundles of the cut plants while wearing T-shirt and shorts and no reaction. Then, shortly after a trail building project on a drizzly day, I got this rash over my entire body. A visit to the doctor told me, "You react now!".
Ever since, I have taken myriad precautions. I have used Ivy Armor (seems to work in conjunction with other treatment) before going on advanced orienteering competitions (lots of off-trail excursions), and washed immediately after my runs with Tecnu and dishwashing detergents (like Dawn). I find that a diphenhydramine tablet or two immediately after exposure helps, as does slathering diphenhydramine gel on the developing rash (diphenhydramine is the generic Benadryl - don't take the tablets while coating with the gel). I am told that Zanfel ($40 for a 4-ounce tube) works well, but somehow I haven't felt like spending that much when other things work.