Sunday, June 30, 2013

Product Review: Ivarest Cleansing Foam for Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Other Skin Rashes

Ivarest Poison Ivy Cleansing Foam
If you follow the blog, you know that my life has been pretty much consumed the last week and a half by a pregnancy rash that has made it nearly impossible to sleep and has made me absolutely miserable.  The rash, which my doctor originally thought was PUPPP but may actually be pemphigoid gestationis or some other kind of pregnancy-related rash, started on my stomach and quickly spread to the rest of my body, with the most vicious irritation occurring on my hands and feet.

In my quest to find some kind of relief for this pregnancy rash, I have tried all kinds of different products.  Although I knew it was not poison ivy, I picked up a product designed for poison ivy because the rash has similar characteristics.  

The product is called Ivarest Poison Ivy Cleansing Foam, and it is manufactured by Blistex.  It boasts the ability to stop poison ivy from forming if used soon after exposure and to keep it from spreading.  It also contains menthol to soothe the itching and burning.  

Desperate for anything that would provide even temporary relief, I bought the Ivarest and jumped in the shower as soon as I got home.  I used it on my hands, feet, arms, and legs.  I really was not expecting much because my rash is clearly not poison ivy, but to my surprise, the Ivarest worked wonders in just a matter of minutes.  It soothed the itching from my rash and allowed me to regain some semblance of sanity after days (and nights) of nonstop itching.

Although I was given a steroid pack to treat the rash, which helped take away the worst of it, I continue to have symptoms and flare ups, especially on my hands and feet.  They are still bad enough to keep me from sleeping, but I have found that if I wash my hands and feet with Ivarest, I can get enough temporary relief to allow me to fall asleep or to be able to focus on other tasks (like doing squats and running up and down the stairs to try to get this baby out).  

Whether you have poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, or some other kind of skin rash that is making you crazy, I recommend giving this product a try.

Disclaimer:  This is a completely UNSOLICITED review of Ivarest based on my experience.  No compensation or other incentive whatsoever was provided to me by the company.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Treatment for relief of PUPPP pregnancy rash

Last week, I shared about my pregnancy rash, which I first noticed on my stomach on Wednesday.  Over the course of the next few days, the rash spread and intensified to a nearly unbearable level.  (See nasty pictures below.)  It was so bad that my hands would sometimes swell to a point where I could not bend my fingers.  I could not sleep more than an hour or two total each night, sometimes less, and I had very little relief from the many remedies I tried, including 1% hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, and aloe.  The only thing that really gave me any relief was icing my hands and soaking my feet in cool water.

I spent a miserable weekend and returned to my doctor on Tuesday of this week.  When she got a look at my hands and arms, she decided immediately that we had to take action.  She prescribed me a steroid pack and also arranged for me to see a dermatologist that afternoon.  Then she had the nurse draw my blood to test for a buildup of toxins in my system.

I went to the dermatologist, who said she thought that it could actually be a different kind of pregnancy rash called pemphigoid gestationis.  (It is also known as herpes gestationis, but it has nothing to do with the herpes virus.)  She did a biopsy on two different spots on my back to see if that is indeed what it is.

If it does turn out to be pemphigoid gestationis, that will leave me with a whole host of other issues with which I will have to deal.  Among the most terrifying is the fact that it would mean that every subsequent pregnancy is likely to involve another rash outbreak.  As someone who wants to have a large (by modern standards) family, this really concerns me.  I am not sure how many times I could do this again.

Pemphigoid gestationis is known to cause low birth weight, which is certainly not the case for my son, as well as blistering of the skin.  So far, I have not really had blisters form, so I am hopeful that the biopsy results will be favorable.

After I left the dermatologist, I got my prescription for Methylprednisolone tablets filled and hurried home to start them as soon as possible.  It was several hours before I noticed any improvement, but just knowing that something was being done about this horrible rash was enough to cheer me up significantly.

Since then, the rash has continued to improve a little each day.  The itching is now confined mostly to my hands and feet, and it is mild enough to be controlled by regular washing with Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap (available at Whole Foods), lotion, and soaking.  I am hopeful that it will continue to improve over the next few days, and hopefully I will deliver my son soon, and I can move on from this nightmare.

The point of this story is that you do NOT always have to suffer through PUPPP or other pregnancy rashes.  When I was researching the rash and trying to find ways to deal with it, it seemed like everyone who had experienced it was told that it is just something they have to deal with until delivery.  Their doctors did not seem to take it very seriously at all, and so they just continued to suffer through sleepless nights and excruciating days until they delivered their babies and the rash finally went away.

But having talked to my doctor, I realized that is not necessary.  There is treatment for pregnancy rashes that is safe for the baby and can provide significant relief.  Some doctors just take the whole thing more seriously than others, so if your doctor thinks that your PUPPP rash is no big deal, do not be afraid to get aggressive and push for a steroid pack or other treatment.  It is ridiculous for women to have to suffer through this, especially when they are supposed to be resting up for D-day.

If you have a rash during pregnancy, make sure to talk to your doctor about it right away, just in case it is not just PUPPP but is instead something more serious.

My hand during the first few days of the rash

My leg 

My hand with lots of bubbles of swelling

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dealing with PUPPP and finding joy in a difficult time

Two days ago, I shared about my newest pregnancy symptom, pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPPP.  Since then, my rash has become consistently worse to the point where it kept me up all night last night and has only allowed me a few stolen hours of sleep here and there since.  I have it on my stomach, arms, legs, and hands.  My hands are by far the worst in terms of itchiness.

The itching is so bad that I can barely type this, and I have to keep stopping to attempt some form of relief.  It is at a level where it is both itchy and painful, and the itch is so bad that I would prefer it just to be pure pain instead.  I have absolutely no clue what to do at this point, except to continue to pray and keep my hands cool with compresses.

Having experienced such a good and easy pregnancy up until now, I am feeling a bit under attack the last few weeks.  First, there was the news that my little boy is rather large, which throws a bit of a wrench into my plans for a relatively smooth and easy delivery, plans that I have been proclaiming for myself since I learned I was pregnant.  Now, as I near the final days, I am experiencing something so uncomfortable and painful that for the first time all pregnancy, when my husband expressed sympathy, I did not respond by telling him the usual, "It's not that bad" or "Oh, it could be worse."  Instead, I just looked at him and said, "This is really bad."

The truth is, however, that it could be worse.  As much as I am suffering right now, I am so grateful to be looking at my own hands and dealing with the pain in them instead of watching my child suffer with some physical ailment.  All indications are that our little guy is healthy, and I would suffer this agony the rest of my life rather than have to watch him go through a terrible illness the way that so many parents much watch their children.

So tonight, as I spend another night trying desperately to sleep and instead sitting awake hour after hour with what may be the worst physical ailment with which I have ever contended (and I do not say that lightly), I will not take these challenges lying down, and I will not allow them to make me forget all the things for which I am so grateful.

I believe I am under a spiritual attack because I have stuck fast to my belief that everything would go smoothly for me when it came time to deliver.  I have consistently prayed for my delivery process and especially for the physical health and mental well-being of my son, and I have been very confident that things will go as I have planned and proclaimed.  I have maintained a positive attitude through most of my pregnancy trials, albeit with an occasional emotional meltdown here and there, mostly during my second trimester where I averaged about 2 hours of sleep a night.  But the PUPPP has been so unbearable the last few days that it really did manage to get me down.

But I am done with being down about it.  I am not going to let some physical ailment rule over my life because I am a Christian, and I do not have to submit to such things.  I have authority over them, and I have authority over the way I respond to them.  Instead of sitting here wallowing in the agony of my situation, I am going to focus on all the things for which I am grateful.  

Here are just a few to get me started:

  1. The PUPPP itching and pain is so bad that it gives me a real opportunity to practice distraction techniques for when I go into labor.
  2. I have a husband who went to the store to pick up various treatment options for me, then came home and made me an oatmeal bath to try to help relieve the itching.
  3. I live in a home where I can run my hands under cold water - one of the few things that actually seems to help, at least for a few minutes - any time I wish and continuously apply new cold compresses to my hands.  Some women deal with the symptoms of PUPPP while living in places where they have no access to any form of relief.
  4. I have new perspective on what constitutes true itchiness, and no mosquito bite will ever phase me again.
  5. I am dealing with a physical ailment, rather than having to endure the emotional torment of watching my husband or son try to battle an illness or other physical problem.
I have so many more things to be grateful for, and I am going to spend the rest of the night focusing on them, practicing my distraction and pain management techniques for labor, and praying for relief.  I am also going to do some squats and walk around as much as possible in order to try to help get the baby moving along before he starts aiming at any Guinness World Records for size.

If anyone has dealt with PUPPP and found a way to cut down on the severity of the symptoms, please share!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pregnant and itchy: skin rash during pregnancy

I have been really fortunate throughout my pregnancy as far as most symptoms go.  My morning sickness was limited to nausea with no vomiting.  My feet have not really been very swollen until just in the last few weeks, but they are not bad enough to necessitate buying bigger shoes or anything like that.  My back pain has been almost nonexistent, which is wild because I have had back problems for years.  For these things and others, however, I have consistently prayed and been prayed for, and even when I started to experience symptoms, they usually cleared up pretty quickly.

A few days ago, I noticed a new one.  I was putting some lotion on my constantly itchy tummy and felt some bumps on the lower part of my belly.  I had to get a mirror since I can no longer see that portion of my stomach, but when I did, I found a patch of red bumps about three inches long and two inches wide.  I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for the next day, and the itchiness wasn't TOO bad, so I decided to wait and ask the doctor.

When I did, she responded by saying, "You have pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy."  

Um, okay.  Glad to have that cleared up.

She must have noticed my glazed-over look because she then explained that pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPPP, as it is more commonly and efficiently called, is a common skin rash that occurs during pregnancy.  It is not really a big deal or anything to be concerned about, and she told me that there is not a whole lot to do except put 1% hydrocortisone cream on it and keep it moisturized.

I was not too worried about the situation at the time because it had not been unreasonably itchy, but by the evening, it was out of control.  I was so itchy I wanted to scream and nearly did a few times.  (We have a nervous beagle, so I kept my urge to start screaming lest the beagle get startled and start peeing.)  I did go back out later and pick up some 1% hydrocortisone, but even with that, lotion, petroleum jelly, and Aquafor, I was awake until some time after 4 a.m.

I'll be honest.  I think I would take the swollen feet over this one, but as with all things, I will turn it over to the Lord in prayer and expect it to clear up in a day or two like most of my other symptoms have.  What was the most unexpected pregnancy symptom you had? 

My baby can beat up your baby...and your dad!

I can hardly believe that I am finally full term as I celebrate 37 weeks pregnant today!  I remember feeling so jealous of the women who were at this point when I was crawling slowly through weeks 22, 23, 24, etc.

Now I can really start trying in earnest to get things moving, and after yesterday's doctor's appointments, I better hope they do move!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my doctor's visits where I was told first that I was measuring large for 34 weeks and then that I was carrying around a full-term size baby at 34 weeks.  (I would just like to take this opportunity to note that while we were traveling in Spain and Ireland, I encountered some typical swollen feet issues, which promptly went away after I prayed over them.  All this with a big boy in my belly - God cares about the little things in our lives!)

Yesterday, I returned to the ultrasound doctor's office for a follow-up, where they informed me that the baby is now measuring between 8 and 9 pounds.  The machine estimated 8 pounds 10 ounces, but the tech said the machine tends to measure high, so she would put it closer to 8 and a half.  Then the doctor said he was getting measurements closer to 8 pounds, which, by the way, just goes to show how unreliable this technology can be.  The difference between these estimates is enough to make the doctor say "c-section" when she would otherwise say, "Go for it!"

I had an appointment with my obstetrician an hour and a half after the ultrasound, so I reported what they told me there so we could discuss the options.  She checked me for dilation - none - and said that the baby is still fairly high, so although he has definitely dropped some since I can now breathe, he is not as low as he could be.  She encouraged me to do as much walking as I comfortably can ("comfortably" being taken with a grain - or six - of salt), but she also said that if he continues to grow at the rate he has been, we may need to schedule a c-section.  I have another ultrasound scheduled for July 5 if I am still pregnant, and depending on those results, it may be slice and dice time.

I will admit that there was a time in my pregnancy when the thought of having a c-section was a major deal to me, and I viewed it much as people view tragedies.  They happen frequently, but not to me.  I was absolutely certain that I would not have a c-section, and the idea of having one filled me with dread.  At this point, however, I have come to terms with it, and it is not that big of a deal to me.  I still would rather avoid it if I can, but there are so many people out there with bigger concerns that I feel worrying about a c-section is a little ridiculous.  

At the end of the day, all I want is for my little boy to come out healthy, happy, and unharmed.  If they have to perform a c-section to make that happen, so be it.  In the meantime, however, I plan to mow the grass and do all the walking that I can.  I mean, if he does happen to pop out a little ahead of schedule and before he gets much bigger, that would be fine with me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How NOT to spend your 8th month of pregnancy

Wow, what a week it has been!  Last Monday morning, I had a doctor's appointment first thing, then left to go pick up my dogs and my brother-in-law.  The dogs had been staying with my husband's mother and brother in Pennsylvania while we were at the beach the week before.  Because they live about 3 and a half hours away, my mother-in-law was kind enough to offer to meet me at the approximate halfway point.

Unfortunately, about an hour and a half from my house, the transmission on my 2007 Toyota Corolla blew.  I was left sitting on the side of Interstate 70 in a torrential downpour, 35 weeks pregnant, and in need of a bathroom.  This is the second time in 2 months that this same car has left me on the side of the road.  Both times were when I was on my way out of town.  The first time, I was only about 45 minutes from home, which was bad enough.  This time, I was fortunate enough to have my mother-in-law on her way to meet me.

One of the blessings of having a smartphone is that I was able to locate a towing service and mechanic right from my vehicle.  It seemed to take forever for the truck to arrive.  I wanted to run into the woods by the side of the road to use the bathroom, but I did not want to let my cell phone - my only means of communication - out of my sight.  It was raining so hard that if I had left the car, I would have been soaked in less than a minute.  And so I waited.  When the truck finally arrived, the driver was very efficient and got the car hooked up quickly.  (Part of this may have had to do with the fact that I told him I needed a bathroom desperately right before climbing into the cab of his truck to wait.)

My mother-in-law was able to take me the rest of the way home and ended up staying a few days, which was nice.  We soon received the worst news you can ever receive from a mechanic: it's the transmission.  Repairs are going to cost us about $3,000, and that does not even include what we are paying to rent a car.

When I went to pick up our car rental, they did not have our vehicle ready, so they offered me a minivan.  I almost took it because I was heading up to Pennsylvania (again) the next day to serve as the matron of honor in my best friend's wedding, and I figured that I could use the extra space.  However, I decided to decline since the dogs would inevitably be all over the van, and hence, so would their fur.  I figured it would be easier to sweep fur out of a smaller vehicle, plus the gas mileage would be better in something smaller.

Every other time I have rented a vehicle, I have received a decent-sized compact like a Mercury Milan or even once a Nissan Maxima.  The one time I needed just a little extra space, however, they gave me a VW Beetle.  What a nightmare of a vehicle.  I cannot imagine anyone ever test driving one of these things and then saying, "Yes, this seems like something I want to buy."  It is ridiculously tiny, and there is very little trunk space, not to mention it just has all kinds of weird functions that do not seem to serve any real purpose.  For example, the windows go up and down when you lock or unlock it.  Just a crack, but still.  Why, I ask you.  Why?

Needless to say, when it came time to head to Pennsylvania, I was experiencing something I never dreamed I would experience: I was wishing I was driving a minivan instead.  We were driving my husband's brother to Pennsylvania to attend the wedding, too, so I drove the Beetle with him in the front seat while the hubby piled into the back with Oliver and Stella.  As usual, tiny Stella took up as much room as she possibly could by stretching across the seat, while Oliver tried to figure out how to stand so as not to step on anyone.

When we finally arrived in Pennsylvania and clambered out of our clown car, I had just enough time to run inside and say hello to my parents before I had to run and get ready for the rehearsal and dinner.  After being on the run all day, I was somewhat dehydrated and feeling awful.  I got a leg cramp in the middle of the rehearsal, which I was able to walk off, but which left me terrified of a repeat performance the next day.

By the end of the evening, I was having nearly constant Braxton Hicks contractions, a few of which were actually somewhat painful.  There were even a few times when I thought I might be in labor, and the only thing that reassured me I was not was that the contractions lasted so long.

Fortunately, the following day, I did a much better job of staying hydrated, and I felt a lot better.  Even so, it was a long (but fun!) day, and I was so grateful when I made it through my toast without my water breaking.

On Sunday morning, we went to visit my 95-year-old grandmother, who was recently admitted to the hospital with what was determined to be a case of pneumonia.  She was in rather poor spirits when we arrived and feeling a bit out of things, but the longer we were there, the better she seemed.  I hated to leave her, but we had to head back to Virginia.

On Tuesday, we got the call that our car was finally ready, so after my husband finished work, we jumped in the car and headed for Maryland.  We picked up the car and paid the astronomical bill for repairs and headed on home.

I am so grateful to be back in Virginia with no other travel planned.  I have some more cleaning to do to get the house in better shape for the guests who will come when the baby arrives, but now that we are home and have the car back, I feel like I am ready for this baby to come!  I have another appointment tomorrow to see how big our not-so-little guy is (see Look out! We've got a big one coming!), and he will be officially full term on Friday.  Come on, baby!