I’m learning to like weekends

This was a well-earned weekend for the Pal Family, and what a day! It’s back in the 60’s (which, for my Canadian readers, is like minus 13 or something).  Our local gopher is nibbling on walnuts out back, and I just deleted my bookmark for my board review questions.  And I’m pretty sure I fartleked today.  Afterward, I drove the car to meet the family for lunch, windows down, and caught the last two movements of a live performance Beethoven’s Fifth on CBC.

Leaves of three, let them be

Yes, it itches really, really bad

There were lots of folks out on the trail today, and I’m sure that tomorrow there will be plenty in the office, so it seems a good time to go over a spring ailment. This time of year the poison ivy is just starting to leaf out, and with people getting back into their yards, I start to see a lot of intensely itchy rashes. Poison ivy leaves a rash typical of an “outside job”; often you can tell the eruption was caused by an external agent just by the pattern.  There tends to be small blisters, many of which occur in distinct lines where the plant brushed across the skin.It’s a pretty benign rash, but horribly uncomfortable. Occasionally, people can develop a secondary immune reaction, or the rash can become infected with bacteria, creating a honey-colored crust on top. The best treatment is avoidance. Learn where the poison ivy is in your area, and stay the hell away from it. My daughter has been able to recognize it since she was three; I don’t want her to associate hiking with itching.

The rash is caused by oils secreted by the plant.  Once you have showered in soap and water, you cannot spread it or give it to others.  People will erroneously believe they have spread it because the rash can develop more or less rapidly and intensely in different areas, but these are areas that were usually exposed at the same time.  Once you realize you’ve been exposed, the best you can do is take a hot, soapy shower, and put all of the exposed clothes into a hot, soapy wash.

Berry brambles and other benign plants often grow in the same areas as poison ivy.  If you’re not absolutely sure, don’t touch it.  If you do get the rash, your doctor will probably prescribe an antihistamine such as benadryl for mild cases.  Benadryl and calamine creams are usually not helpful.

There was plenty of the stuff growing along the rail trail this morning, something to distract me on my run.  Running sometimes scares the hell out of me. I think it’s the fear of discomfort or the fear of not being able to do it.  Last weekend I hit the trail and after about 100 meters, I was done.  I just. couldn’t. move.  Today was much nicer.  As I mentioned, I tried the whole fartlek thing, and while I only did about two miles (for our neighbors to the north, about 1200 centimeters or something) , the variation made it much more interesting and much more comfortable.

I suspect this fear is what keeps a lot of people away from exercise, especially those who have been away from it for a while.  I try to encourage my patients to get back into exercise slowly, to remind them that any physical activity is better than none.  We tend to be wired to fall back on old and easy habits and when we don’t exercise for a week, or we don’t lose twenty pounds, we give up because we all know it’s much easier to sit on the couch eating Mallomars.

So put down the cookies. Get out there, hit the trail, even if it’s only a few hundred yards (or for our Canadian neighbors, three Imperial gallons or something).


  1. BikeMonkey

     /  April 29, 2012

    One correction on the post-exposure. Use detergent, not soap. Laundry or dish, doesn’t matter much. Also, bleach. Take the laundrey bottle of bleach in the shower. Soak a washcloth liberally and scrub down the affected area.
    All your clothes, possibly even shoes, go straight into the washer.

    Back when I was getting regularly exposed to poison oak I ended up having to go on steroids for one bad round before I figured this out. Never had anything severe ever since.

    • yes, for the laundry, i definitely meant ‘detergent’. Not so easy on the skin though. I’ve never had poison ivy, but when i was living out west, poison oak got me.

  2. Isis the Scientist

     /  April 29, 2012

    the whole fartlek thing

    No one wants to know what you do in private…

  3. inbabyattachmode

     /  April 29, 2012

    With Canadians you mean the rest of the world that has the normal metric system instead of that backwards American crazyness?

  4. lumbercartel

     /  April 29, 2012

    The good news is that around here there isn’t much in the way of poison ivy.
    The bad news is that damn near everything we do have, has spines. Poison ivy you can at least wash off. Glochids, on the other hand, are forever. Or seem to be.

    • Once when hiking with friends outside tucson, my friend wanted to try fresh prickly pear.

      Luckily I had my swiss army knife with the tweezers.

      • lumbercartel

         /  April 29, 2012

        The trick is to burn them off first.
        However, most of the species you run into (if you’re unlucky) are only technically edible, unless you’re a cow. Cows can eat pear when the grass (or water) runs out and thrive on it.
        If the subject ever comes up again, buy nopalitos at Food City. As for the tweezers, they’re the most reliable method but still leave like a third of the glochids in place to fester out.
        I learned way to much about them after my little brother and I went dirt biking and he took a header into a patch of prickly pear.

  5. Dianne

     /  April 29, 2012

    Exercise is, in my experience at least, mildly addictive. Dieting, on the other hand is not. It is my theory therefore one should hit the trail with cookies rather than sit on the couch without them. Eventually, the trail will become its own reward and the cookies will be superfluous.

    Great, now I’ve got a wicked urge to head to the airport, fly to Switzerland and start down the first Alpine trail I find.

  6. “…put down the cookies.”

    WTH?! You obviously haven’t tasted my amazingly addictive homemade semi-healthy-only-slightly-awful-for-you cookies. Besides, it was just that one, after schlepping about a hundred pounds (100 metric tonnes or something) of groceries home on the longbike. And chatting with the very fit firefighters who stopped their great big fire truck and got out to ask about the bike. Did I mention the good-looking firefighters who talked to me? About the bike, but still…

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