I deserved the first case because I knew that pulling weeds barehanded in the overgrown shrubbery patch near the creek was a risky business. Even though I would swear to you that I carefully observed every green stem before I touched it, my blistered up arms were the testimony that something went wrong with my safety plan.
Also, waterless handcleaner failed to protect me. Follow along as I explain my home-grown junk science/folklore protection strategy: I remember hearing somewhere that if you make contact with poison ivy, you should immediately pour rubbing alcohol onto the area and that would prevent an outbreak. Combine that hazy, unverified memory with the advent of waterless handcleaners, which are 62% alcohol and you can start to lose your fear of the vine. In theory, liberal application of Purell from the handy container that I keep near the picnic table for post-puppy petting hygiene should have saved me then, wouldn't you think? That was my conclusion and I still think the logic is sound. I'm going to write to Heloise and share that with her.
I believe that the second outbreak was stress-induced. Can that really happen? I used to break out into hives when work deadlines loomed so is it not possible that deadline pressure could prompt a re-emergence of "the ivory", as Sami calls it. That episode was milder and confined to my forearms.
This third time is the worst of all. On one of those sticky humid New Jersey days last week, I took a shower in the early afternoon and then just stayed in a nightgown (see: Working From Home - What The Lady Execs Are Wearing). The coolness of the evening air on the deck later on was too good to give up, so it was me and the dog and the mosquitoes watching the planes fly low and the bats come out. When I discovered a cluster of itchy red bumps on my abdomen, I naturally assumed that a mosquito got up into my nightgown and had a little picnic.
But as the bumps spread and configured themselves into the distinctive stripes and flat leathery patches that are so familiar to me, I can only come to one conclusion: it's "the ivory" and it came come riding in on a soft and smelly canine vector of transmission.
Ask The Doctor: "The more common scenario is the transmission of urushiol from a pet to
a human. Because dogs and cats easily pick up the resin on their fur
and do not get a rash, unsuspecting humans may get a significant rash
from contact with their pets."
Ask The Dog: Did you do that?