Having poison ivy in the eyes is one of the worst, most torturous feelings imaginable and aside from the sheer misery of having itchy poison ivy in the eyes, it lasts for quite a long time, up to a week in some instances as the poison ivy oils probably were spread around more in the eye area than elsewhere on the skin, thus causing the case to be much worse. Having poison ivy on your skin is bad. Having it in your eyes is unimaginable.

One afternoon I was doing some gardening outdoors and was working along a few trees that had poison ivy growing up the sides of them. While I was sure I had not touched any of the leaves directly to avoid skin contact, at some point, I must have brushed against them with my hands or, worse yet, actually pulled some poison ivy plants with my hands, thus getting some of the poison oils on them. As I continued to work, a hair got behind one of my contact lenses and I ran inside to remove it before I lost it. I used the tip of my finger to get it out of my eye and at this point is probably when I spread the poison ivy oils into my eye. I imagine that at some point as well I also rubbed the other eye because by the time I woke up the next morning, both eyes were swollen shut and seemed to itch from the back of my eye sockets and I had poison ivy on other places on my skin as well.

I try not to be someone who is weak about anything painful and I tend to not like being a baby about minor ailments or general skin itching but let me tell you, getting poison ivy in your eyes is nothing minor. Not only does it render you blind for upwards of a week until your swollen eyes eventually open to reveal a gooey, still itchy mess, it literally feels like your brain itches. I realize how gory this sounds, but when I had poison ivy in both of my eyes, I seriously considered how wonderful it would be if they just took me to the hospital, temporarily removed both of my eyes, and used a little tool to dig around behind my eye sockets and itch that burning, awful itch. This was the worst medical thing that ever happened to me and was worse than recovery from any surgery or any painful condition I’ve ever had. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

If you are one of the unfortunate people who has to know firsthand the horror of getting poison ivy in your eyes and having your eyes swell shut, there is some hope. Have someone drive you to the hospital or emergency room (obviously, you can’t do it, you’re blind) and they will give you a steroid shot of cortisone to help the swelling and aid in easing at least some of the itch. This is, however, a temporary fix. You can keep taking all the Benadryl you want, that poison ivy in the eyes will hang out as long as it wants. The cortizone shot or steroid will help the poison ivy on your skin as well, which is at least a bonus.

I’ve been trying to make something positive out of this awful experience that made me blind for almost a week and made me look a monster as my entire face swelled up as a result of the poison ivy in my eyes in addition to patches on my skin. On one hand, I got a firsthand understanding of what it must be like to be a blind person and how awful it would be to have sight all of your life and then lose it at another point. It was horrible and made life rather dull and was not something I think I would ever be able to get used to, especially since I love to read and write so much.

The only other positive thing about my experience with poison ivy in the eyes is that I can use my story of eye poison ivy to remind everyone how important it is to wash your hands after doing yard work or, for that matter, anything outdoors that could possibly put you in contact with poison ivy oils. Do not ever touch your eyes or skin until you have first washed your hands with water, then soap, then water again, The only way to really wash poison ivy off is through this process as if you just use soap, it will only spread the oils more. I hope that no one has to go through this and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you!