May 2012 – When we first moved to our new home in Texas, most of the state was in the midst of a serious drought. We had seen very little rain in the first six months that we lived here. Due to the lack of precipitation, our lawn did not have to be mowed very often. When winter and spring finally arrived, we began to get more rain and the grass began to really grow.
One day when I was running around in the tall grass of our backyard with the kids, I noticed some interesting looking vines on the back fence. The leaves looked like the same kind of oak leaves on the trees outside of our yard. I wasn’t sure what they were or when they started growing there, but I told the kids not to touch them in case they might be poisonous.
We went back into the house and the vines slipped back out of my mind until the evening after Stephen had decided to cut the grass. He began complaining about a rash forming on different parts of his body. He said that they seemed to spread every time he tried to wash it with soap and hot water.
Suddenly, I remembered the vines.
“Stephen, did you touch the vines that were on the fence of our back yard?”
“Yes, I tore them down, because I thought they were weeds,” he replied.
I winced, because I knew Stephen doesn’t own gloves and everything he was describing sounded like he had made contact with poison oak. He told me that he had ripped down the vines with his bare hands and then taken a shower as usual with hot water after finishing the yard work. After a little research, I found out that hot water is one of the fastest ways to get the body to absorb the oils from poison oak and he had basically spread the oils over most of his body in that shower. The first thing you are supposed to do is rinse off the affected area in cold water before you use hot water and soap.
Stephen suffered for the following three weeks as the poison oak rash continued pop up on different areas of his body. Although he had originally used his hands to remove the vines, his chest and back were the areas that manifested the worst of his rashes. It was a hard lesson to learn by first-hand experience (literally and figuratively speaking). Fortunately, none of the kids made contact with the vine before Stephen used poison oak spray to kill the rest of the plant.
Just recently, we have noticed another small vine trying to grow back onto the backyard fence. I think it’s time to go out and buy new gloves and poison oak killer.