Thursday, May 15, 2014

Off-Topic with Tammy

This Thursday's post is a little later than I shoot for, so if you are a blog follower, maybe you can pick this one up on your evening blog check-in instead of the typical morning check-in. My post today is a Public Service Announcement for everyone out there who suffers from a serious reaction to poison ivy/poison oak/poison sumac. I wanted to bring to your attention to something that I learned the hard way this week.

Over the years, I have become seriously allergic to poison ivy/oak/sumac. I am ever-diligent when in areas where I might come into contact with it because if I get it, I can't seem to get rid of it. In an effort to avoid possible exposure, I stay on trails, I wear long pants when hiking, and I won't handle my kids' clothes if they have been in a place where they could have come into contact with it. My kids and hubby all seem to be immune to the stuff, but not me.

My story starts with the fact that fresh mangoes were on sale at the grocery store this week. I don't eat a lot of fresh mangoes, but I recently received a couple of packages of delicious dried mangoes from a lovely TSR member in the Philippines a few weeks ago, and I thought I would try some fresh ones again because the dried version was so tasty. So, I picked up two fresh mangoes last Wednesday and ate one. The skin of a mango is hard, like that of an avocado, and as I cut through the mango, a lot of the fruit was left sticking to the inside of the skin-shell, so I did what any reasonable person on a quest for tasty fruit would do... I just tipped that shell up to my mouth and ate the fruit that was stuck to it right out of the inside of the mango skin-shell, and it was tasty. (Who knew that I should have done a web-search for "how to cut up a mango...")
(not me, but you get the idea about my mango-eating technique)

Fast-forward to Thursday evening when I noticed that my upper lip and the corners of my mouth felt extremely chapped all of a sudden - weird. I put lip balm on them and it didn't help - also weird. By Sunday morning, I noticed that the left side of my face was starting to look red and that I had what I thought was a large cluster of acne popping up next to my nose - getting weirder. By the time I got home from church that afternoon, the whole left side of my face was tight and red and puffing up with bumps. From past experience with reactions to poison ivy, I felt with certainty that this was the same kind of reaction that I was having on my face, but I had no idea how I could have gotten poison ivy on my face. I haven't been working in the yard; I haven't been on any hikes; I haven't been in any places where I could have been exposed, especially on my face. I was perplexed, and my face was getting puffier by the minute. My husband suggested that perhaps my "chapped lips/mouth" might be part of the same reaction, so I did a google search for, "Can you get poison ivy on your lips?"
(again, not me, but you get the idea about how the rash started around the mouth)

My web-search led me to a page where I discovered, much to my surprise, that mangoes are in the same plant family with poison ivy, and that the SAP/skin from this tasty fruit has the same substance in it that is in poison ivy - urushiolThe skin/sap of the mango contains enough urushiol that, if you are already sensitized to it, will cause contact dermatitis (that nasty "poison-ivy" reaction) from exposure. I have eaten mangoes before, so I knew I wasn't allergic to the fruit, but I had never eaten a mango like one eats a quartered orange, so I was certain that the reaction making its way across my face was from the skin/sap of this freshly-cut mango. (I had a second mango in the fridge, and I carefully looked it over and discovered that there was indeed sap on the outside of the skin, which I would never have noticed had I not been looking for it.) Anyway, I went to the doctor on Monday morning and got a prescription for Prednisone to stop the reaction, and now, almost four days later, my face is getting back to normal, and the itching and burning has subsided. 

(new mango cutting technique to employ next time, promptly followed by handwashing in cold water)


The doctor confirmed that she had another patient who had the same reaction to the sap of the mango, so I wanted to get the word out to all of you who are already susceptible to poison ivy/oak/sumac... BEWARE THE FRESH MANGO! If you are one of the lucky ones who has had a bad reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac, then you also might be susceptible to that same reaction if you get the sap from a fresh mango on your skin. I'm pretty sure that if you wash the mango off in cold water prior to cutting it up and if you wash your hands/face immediately with cold water after contact, then you could probably wash that urushiol off of your skin before it reacts (just like you would do if you were exposed to poison ivy/oak/sumac and were lucky enough to know about it before your skin started erupting). Furthermore, I'm not suggesting that you should never eat a mango again - but you should probably add Mangos to your list of things to HANDLE CAREFULLY to avoid a possible reaction that might require prescription drugs to quell.
I have included the link to the short article that I found that enlightened me. I found the comments section to be especially helpful as I found my exact symptoms mirrored again and again from other urushiol-reactors-to-mango-sap-sufferers. I hope that my experience might help to keep some of you healthier and more comfortable with the Mango-eating-season coming into full swing! 


  1. Wow! This is good to know. I also have had severe reactions to poison ivy, oak and sumac growing up. I will be careful with mangoes.

  2. Oh my! I had no idea! My son has this same terrible reaction to poison oak, ivy etc, so that is good to know. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you are feeling better soon!

  3. Tammy thank you so much for posting this. I too get have a bad reation to poison ivy. In the past, I have eaten a mango and have experienced what you did. It is all making sense now! Thanks again and feel better!

  4. oh my! I'm so sorry this happened to you. I LOVE fresh mango, but luckily, my mom has taught me this cutting technique. Good to know its relation to poison ivy! Thank you for the PSA. :)

  5. Same thing happened to me in Singapore. It took me a trip to the ER and two doctors later till finally a dermatologist asked if I was allergic to Poision Ivy, which I am... and he told me what had happened... I have never cut another mango without wearing gloves... it was miserable. So glad you figured it out and now are making a PSA... well done.