Early last summer, I was helping a designer in her client’s garden. I was wearing gloves, but I still developed a weird rash on my finger. Then it occurred to me that the previous year, I had gotten a rash on the same finger while working in the same garden, but that rash had gone away, and this one was still there, months later.
I finally got to the dermatologist, who did a culture and determined that it was a simple case of eczema. But the experience got me thinking about the stuff you can catch while you’re gardening. I am not going to get into plants like poison ivy here. This series of posts focuses on other, more obscure nasties.
One of the most common infections is Sporotrichosis, caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii. It is more commonly known as”rose thorn disease,” because you can catch it when you handle thorny plants. But you can also get it from sphagnum moss (always wear gloves when you work with sphagnum!) and hay. The fungus enters the skin through small cuts or punctures. You can also get a lung infection if you inhale it.
Sprotrichosis usually first appears as a small bump on the skin, but it can develop into open sores that won’t heal. Obviously, it’s a good idea to get yourself to a dermatologist for this and all such rashes.
Treating this fungus is fairly straightforward, once the doctor has done a culture. You can prevent infections altogether by wearing long sleeves and thick gloves while handling thorny plants, and by wearing gloves whenever you are using sphagnum moss.
Next post: when caterpillars attack!