Thursday, September 10, 2015

Poison Ivy and Hives; The Battle Continues

Blairsville, GA (high 75, low 62)

I am sorry for another post about Al’s poison ivy/rash, but I want to document this for the next time and my memory isn’t that great. Unless you’ve had poison ivy problems of your own, there will be nothing interesting here to read.  Sorry.


Al got poison Ivy soon after we arrived here the end of July.  It came in the form of a lost beagle who got into our golf cart and either rubbed against Al or the golf cart.

We now know that he must stay away from dogs because you never know where they have been, or what other dog they have rubbed against.  Al is so highly sensitive to poison ivy that it takes very little of it and dogs seem to be the most common way he gets it. He is very careful in the woods.

After over a month dealing with this my current theory is that poison ivy starts the process and it causes Al to become hyper-sensitive then he becomes allergic to things that never bothered him before. 

The blisters from the poison ivy itched and drove him crazy, but that was the least of his problems.  The poison ivy started to clear up but he had started getting hives all over his upper body. They didn’t look like the rash from the PI.  They not only itched but made him feel really, really bad. He laid around the house and slept a lot for several weeks.  He went on Prednisone initially for the poison ivy and felt better when he was taking it, but started going down hill afterwards.

We went to a doctors office and saw a Nurse Practitioner. She prescribed another round of Prednisone, gave him a steroid shot, and some pills for the itching.  The pills knocked him out and allowed him to sleep at night but made him very sleeping during the day too, even though he only took one at night.  The hives would come and go, so we knew they were not from the poison ivy.   The NP, said the hives were from an allergy, and the best thing to do was to to keep a food diary with everything he put into his mouth, including toothpaste. We had been thinking it was more from something external, but she felt it was something ingested.  That led us down a whole different path.

We started eliminating certain things from his diet, including  fish oil, glucosamine, vitamins, chocolate, fried chicken, beer, soap, deodorant, and even his blood pressure medicine.  We eliminated these things one at a time and nothing made a difference.  He was still covered in big red hives that itched and he still felt really bad. 

I had been using a detergent for sensitive skin and allergies. We changed brands.  I did double and triple rinses on his clothes. I washed them with no detergent, but nothing helped.  Thank goodness we have a full size washer and dryer in our cabin.  It would have been impossible in the Rv washer/dryer, and expensive at the Laundromat.

A comment on my blog  suggested I look at the relation to poison ivy and cashews.   I did a Google search and found this web page.

Here is a portion of the article I found.

But most of us have enjoyed a cashew or two or two hundred and twenty two. Cashews are a favorite for many people, including my mother. Most Americans are accustomed to the roasted, toasted and salted cashews sold in the grocery stores. Health food stores sell cashews marketed as "raw". These are a light, off-white color and taste almost sweet. The majority of these "raw" cashews are not truly "raw". These cashews are processed to remove the chemical resin urushiol, which is also the chemical that is found in poison ivy and mangos. The cashew is also related to poison sumac and to pistachios.


The nurse practitioner had steered in the direction of ingested items.   I had been thinking it was more of something external. When we ran out of ideas on food items, we started looking at other things again.

We tried skipping our evening golf cart ride to see if something in the air or was nearby on those narrow mountain roads that might be causing the problem.  The hives didn’t go away.  Maybe it’s the pollen in the air?  He is not sneezing or showing the usual symptoms of a pollen allergy, so we didn’t think that was it.   Maybe he is allergic to the cats? Still, no sneezing or any of the usual symptoms.  We joked that it would be a shame if we had to find him a new home.   LOL

During this process, we made sure all of his clothing was 100% cotton.   He still got hives and felt bad.   I continued washing his clothes constantly.  We kept running out of ideas, but then something else would come to mind, and we’d that eliminating that item.

Finally, we took a look at our blankets, which are the nice fuzzy fleece and as it turned out are made of 100% polyester. I don’t know why we didn’t think of the blankets earlier, but they never bothered him before.  We bought a cotton blanket, used cotton sheets and FINALLY,  he started to get better.

The  hives on his back cleared and he started feeling better, but then he started getting ugly bumps on his elbows. We decided to cover the recliner and sofa with cotton sheets so that his elbows didn’t touch anything but cotton. His elbows cleared up. He felt good again!  YAY!   This entire process took over a month!

Al is extremely sensitive to poison ivy.  I am exposed to it as much as he is and (knock on wood) I’ve never gotten it.   The nurse practitioner warned him to be extremely careful not to be around it if anyone was burning it.  She said that landed her in the hospital and warned Al to get to the hospital immediately should he be around any burning poison ivy. 

We have a burn pile here at the RV park and we’re concerned someone may accidently pull a “weed” and put it into the burn pile.   It might kill Al, so we’re going to stay away on burn days.  :)


During the past week or so since he’s been feeling better, we’ve done some hiking.  He was very careful not to touch any plants or anything else in the woods, but he started getting bumps on his back and not feeling well.  We thought it may have been because he used a different pillow that wasn’t wrapped with several cotton pillow cases, but he is also wondering if it was because there was obviously poison ivy in the woods and he just got near enough to be bothered by it.  The jury is still out on whether the new problem is caused by the new pillow or being in the woods.  We had been hiking in the woods during the time he felt better, so we’re hoping that wasn’t the problem. 


Lessons learned:

1. stay away from dogs!  Stay away from anything dogs touch. Don’t let dogs get into the golf cart. 

2. Once he gets PI, he will probably develop other allergies.  Make sure all his clothing and bedding is covered in cotton fabrics.  Cover the recliner with a cotton blanket/sheet.


  1. What a process, now hopefully you have found the sources that cause him issues.
    It is amazing how a body can react to different things in our environment, good luck Al.

  2. Glad you are finally making some progress and Al is feeling better.

  3. I feel so bad for Al and the frustration you have been going through trying to figure out what is causing all his problems. Fingers crossed that he gets some good relief.

  4. that sure as heck doesn't sound like any fun whatsoever... at least it wasn't the beer!

  5. Glad you are making progress on the issue of PI for Al's sake. I know that you will eventually find the root of his problem and resolve it. Al may have to change his wardrobe to long sleeved shirts, long pants and closed shoes with socks just to protect himself against his nemesis.
    Be safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  6. What a problem for you guys, I can't believe what you've been through. You're sure finding out a lot, though, and eventually Al will be okay as long as he stays away from poison ivy. I'm wondering - once the poison ivy is gone, will he still be allergic to materials that aren't cotton? Will the hyper sensitivity issues remain?

  7. Wow! What a terrible way to spend the summer in your beautiful mountain place!

  8. Hopefully, you've found the problem. Glad things are looking up.

  9. Wow.....what an ordeal...we are so sorry Al has been suffering so much! Hope things continue to improve...

  10. Wow...such a long ordeal. I'm glad you figured out most of the causes. Feel better Al. Hope you get to see a bear soon!

  11. Well, I do think I am more educated about PI now. I had a severe bout with PI when I was in the boy scouts and have never forgotten. I think a speedy recovery is not in the cards but hope Al has a full recovery.

  12. Can he be desensitized to the poison ivy with allergy shots?

  13. What a battle Al is fighting. He's so lucky to have a great partner in you to help him find the answers he needs.

  14. I am sorry. You are certainly having a rough time of it. This is impacting your enjoyment of life big-time.

    May I suggest you have a look at the Autoimmune Protocol. Some of the things in there will challenge your beliefs but too many people have had success with serious problems that it's worth trying to understand what is going on.

    the website is

    The author is a scientist and was painstaking in her research.

    I do think the 30 day elimination diet is worth the bother if you can get around the strictness and I think there is a vegetarian option.

    Some people have healed up so much from the inside out that allergies have been reduced. Maybe the poison Ivy rash will respond and the hives most certainly should. That has to be good news for you both.



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