While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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Poison ivy: Don't scratch where it itches

You may be, as I am, itching to get out and garden again.

But not literally. Learn to recognize and avoid poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I thought was immune to it since I’d brushed up against poison ivy at various times in my life and nothing happened. Then a few years ago, after hand-digging a new bed in the back yard, my arms started to blister, then itch. It was not the kind of itch from a mosquito; this seemed far more insidious, as if it was coming from deep inside.

The culprit is URUSHIOL, a toxin found in the oil of poison ivy, oak and sumac.

Luckily, my garden-writer friend Jan Riggenbach had alerted me to Zanfel. It’s an over-the-counter tube of gritty wash that helps remove urushiol from the skin. The product bonds with the toxin, which is then washed away with water.

Courtesy of zanfel.com

I learned that after the first five minutes to two hours after exposure, neither scratching nor skin-to-skin contact spreads the rash; the watery fluid from the blisters doesn’t spread it either.

The problem is, you don’t always realize you’ve come in contact with the plant right away. You can be infected from a pet who brushes against it, a garden tool, even breathing smoke from a fire built of dried garden waste. Don’t burn suspicious plants! Urushiol remains active in dead poison ivy plants for up to five years in wet climates and nine years in dry climates.

If you think you’ve come in contact with poison ivy, IMMEDIATELY wash all areas with plain water and soap, including your clothing and pets. After five minutes to two hours, the toxin binds itself to your skin. That’s when Zanfel comes in handy.

Severe cases may require steroids from a physician.

I’ve tried other products but this is the best, most effective one. To my surprise, I recently learned it’s manufactured in the Des Moines suburb of Clive, Iowa.

The makers of Zanfel have not asked me or paid me to promote it. I did score a free tube at the 55th annual Iowa State University Shade Tree Short Course and Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association Conference.

I hope I won’t need it. But when that’s gone, I’ll be buying more. It works.

For more information on how to identify toxic plants and how to deal with them, see www.zanfel.com.

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