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Dermatitis from Courgette plants

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For the past few years I have ended up with dermatitis on the backs of my hands.  It is very itchy and very sore.  It seems to arrive each year when the willows start shedding their fluffy seeds in early June.  But it is not caused by the willow.
I have had to wear gloves all the time for weeks each summer.  I thought it was something in the air.  This year was particularly painful and it all went gunged and I needed antibiotics.  I have been paranoid about not opening windows at night during the summer. 
Then finally I found the cause.  It seem that I am allergic to touching the courgette plant stems.  I hardly notice it when I pick the fruit.  I was touching the stems but only with the backs of my hands.   I hold the fruit in my hands and that does not cause the problems, it is rubbing the backs of my hands on the stalks.
It then seems to get worse if these areas are then exposed to sunlight, even through a car window.  So if I drive after picking a courgette then the sun on the back of my hands seems to make problem even worse. 
It has taken me 6 or 7 years or more to finally track down the issue. 
So now I only need to wear the gloves when I pick courgettes.

Sounds very unpleasant. But good news that you have isolated the cause.

Thanks, I will watch out for that as I've been finding my hands a little itchy after picking courgettes.

The sap / sunlight connection exists with a number of plants - hellebores, rue, for instance.

I've had this reaction (& worse in sunlight) to the sap of Globe Artichokes & Figs (and bloody Spurges - I hate them - and their "ornamental" cousins even more).

It's even worse from contact with bamboo - especially when pruning it (I only have Black Bamboo) - I use gauntlets now - they extend about 10cm further up my forearms - this is useful because it's usually hot weather when I prune it, and I know from experience that a long-sleeved T shirt isn't enough to stop sap reaching tender skin.

I used to have hay fever but it's morphed into a grass-sap allergy that can cover my hands and arms with very similar itchy spots that also turn into blisters in sun - only the thickest skin on the inside of my palm & fingers is immune - if careful I can do without gloves (as long as I don't let grass go between my fingers) but I always use opaque arm coverings in hot weather - very useful and less inconvenient than gloves. An old black cotton sock with the toe end (and its inevitable holes) cut off will cover your forearm - makes a huge difference.

A useful trick for itchy spots :- if you find you've scratched any skin off a spot or a blister then painting it with clear nail varnish is a good idea - the solvent in it (acetone) is even more aggressive at drying them out than alcohol is, and the varnish stops infection later. 100% effective so far, though it's a short sharp shock at the time.

Don't read this if you are of a nervous disposition - I've since discovered that researchers in jungles paint botfly bites with nail varnish - but they use the red stuff because they want to keep an eye on the bite to make sure the egg inside is properly suffocated by the varnish - I think I'd be so horrified by them that I'd paint them daily!


Thinking back to when I was a nipper, my summertime job was in a smallholding, where we picked strawberries, tomatoes or cucumbers when they were in season, Afterwards we would head on down the beach for a swim and the salt water used to sting our arms, more so after a cucumber  picking day. No lasting effects but a bit uncomfortable for an hour or two. Mother put it down to sunburn and smothered it in cooling calamine. It was worth the pain to save up all your 6 pence halfpenny an hour and buy yourself a pair of winkle pickers and some drainpipe jeans at the end of the summer.


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