Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Year of Itching Dangerously

This year I got poison ivy early, while the leaves were still tiny red triangles and the roots came up with the myrtle I yanked from around flowers. As poison ivy goes, it wasn't too bad. This means that it was contained to the original areas of contact and itched to the shrieking point for several days, during which a few new blisters arose to itch furiously for more days. After that it gave up.

The flaky scabs were no sooner gone than I was attacked by a new furious itching, along the seam lines of my pants. I thought it would go away when I removed the offending garment, but as I watched, lumps arose, split, and oozed. Hives, I thought. I'd never endured them before. I assumed they would follow the same itch cycle of poison ivy, and that after 4 days the worst would be over.

Unlike poison ivy, this itch can be reduced by regular doses of antihistamine. It is unimpressed by calamine lotion and the colorless gel versions of anti-itch ointment. It completely ignores anti-itch creams with hydrocortisone. It blinks a bit at rubbing alcohol and Listerine, but the only thing that really dulls the wildly infuriating itch is Walfinate D at very regular intervals. By which I mean that if I should miss the mark by even 10 minutes, I am in for hours of an all-consuming desire to scratch. By the clock it is only an hour, but it seems like hours, and I am not always successful at refraining from scratching.

Online descriptions of hives are unintentionally alarming. First it says that the outbreak can evaporate overnight. I expected a few days, but we've gone beyond "a few." The next version has a proper latinate name meaning that it goes away in less than 6 weeks.  As you can imagine, my eyebrows rose into the stratosphere at this. A few days is two or three. We are in Day Five. If anything, the itching is more furious and the original bumps, confined to my legs, have been joined by small outbreaks on my arms and torso. I don't want 6 weeks of this.

The next latinate name refers to  hives that last longer than 6 weeks and up to a year. I refuse to consider this.

Immediately before the hives arose, I was happily consuming a beef enchilada at a favorite place that had recently acquired a new cook. A bite of the leftover enchilada the next day caused more itching, which seems to indicate that an unknown spice is the culprit. It could also have been complete coincidence.

Hives sufferers are advised to wear lightweight loose clothing. Pajamas, anyone? As long as I am vertical, the itching is an annoying niggle than can be ignored. It is when I am horizontal and trying to sleep that my skin turns to fire and superhuman effort is required not to scratch. I'm not even sure why I shouldn't scratch. Scratching with poison ivy spreads the little oily annoyance. With this, which I am calling hives in the absence of  definitive proof that it is not, those lumps which split and oozed itch less than the smaller bumps which rise and subside according to my antihistamine intake.

So. Hives does not (do not?) threaten my life, but my tolerance for the foibles of others is greatly diminished. Those of you who delight in poking trolls are doubtless inclined to ask, "How can you tell?" You feel safe in doing so because you are out of reach.