Usually my allergies are skin allergies. I get intense irritation from even the slightest rubbing of things like sunflower leaves. I have had extreme skin breakdown from tea tree oil. I am very careful about what I put on my skin. However, this year I discovered blooming kochia will give me a full-blown upper respiratory reaction. Not as bad as asthma or constricted breathing. But, oh, the sneezing, itching eyes, and runny nose.
We didn’t have a lot of kochia on our previous acre. It was more suburban. At our new place, we are surrounded by large cultivated fields and hundreds of acres of wild BLM land. The neighbors on both sides of us and across the street are going for the natural landscape look. Plus, we have some natural habitat down by the river. All of this means that I have a battle with kochia that I have never had before.
Except for along the fence line, I can keep the kochia in the pasture mowed. It is a decent addition to the diet of my horse and two goats. If you have animals, you might want to be aware of concerns of toxicity as described in this article: Kochia – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, but with enough dry alfalfa and fresh green grass, my animals enjoy snacking on kochia at all stages of growth.
As always, I put a lot of time and energy into early season weed control in my yard. Still, come midsummer, there was kochia flowering tall along my fence and in a some other less traveled places in the yard. So, I rolled up my – no, wait. I put on my light weight, long sleeve cotton shirt; long pants; wool socks and moccasins; and covered my hair and ears with a scarf. And I put on gloves. It was the time of year with many flies and mosquitoes. It was time to cover as much skin as possible.
The blooming kochia was waist high, but I was determined. I used my spading fork where I could, to loosen it. Then I grabbed the thick stems as close to the ground as I could and pulled the big plants up by the roots. I did this for a couple of hours and made splendid progress.
Maybe it was because this was a new allergen to my body, but it wasn’t until the end of those two hours that I began having upper respiratory symptoms. My body didn’t ease into it either. First I was fine, then I wasn’t. Since kochia was the only thing I had been weeding, it had to be the culprit.
I splashed a bunch of cold water on my face, then I went to lay down with ice packs to rotate on my forehead. I prayed and went to sleep. Amazingly, when I woke up about 90 minutes later, I was almost completely recovered.
However, I wasn’t going to take any chances next time. I know that the second exposure to something like that can be worse. When I went out to deal with kochia a couple days later, I kept my face far away from it. As the ground was harder and dry in those spots, I cut the stalks at ground level and held them in the tips of the clippers to toss them into the weed pile. That did the trick and I didn’t have any trouble that time.
Then a week later, it was time to mow the pasture again. Not only does this cut down the kochia, but grass that is too long and lush can give my horse a life-threatening tummy ache. What I was surprised to see was a lot of the previously mowed kochia was still trying to bloom at ground level. I didn’t think too much of this until I ended up downwind of the dust kicked up by the mower. The reaction started almost right away and I knew I was in trouble.
I only had a few more swathes to mow, so I finished, then I rushed into the house, put all of my clothing in the laundry and headed for the shower. Not only did I wash my face with soap, but after it was rinsed I adjusted the water temperature to barely lukewarm and let the shower gently push water against my mostly closed eyes.
I had to take a breaks to breathe more fully, but I kept doing this for a few minutes and finally the itching subsided. I was hopeful. Also, I couldn’t stay in the shower all day, so it was time to see how I was going to fare.
Happily, this calmed everything down a lot. I did not have anymore sneezing or runny nose. My eyes barely itched and it subsided fairly soon. Phew.
Unfortunately, there was still kochia in my yard. Someone needed to weed it and the weeding is mostly my thing. Dear hubby does a lot of work and he helps me some with weeding, but gardening and landscaping is really not his thing. I put it off for a while, until a wind storm blew large, recently uprooted blooming kochia on top of my beautiful rose bushes and pumpkin plant along the pasture fence. Not only was it ugly, but the longer those tumbleweeds stayed there, the more kochia seed they would spread around my yard.
I donned my full battle gear again, but this time I also thought of a few other tactics. I needed to crush the semi-dry weeds to fit them in my trash bags. I could do this with my feet. I also made sure that the wind was blowing away from me. I kept track of where the weeds touched my shirt sleeves and didn’t wipe the sweat from my forehead on those sections. I had to press the debris down into the bag some, but I turned my face away as I did so, so that any pieces of plant that poofed up wouldn’t end up in my face.
My wrists starting getting red spots and itching badly. That was probably partly due to the used up sunflowers that I also to cut down. Other than that, I was only getting a slight itching in my eyes. Still, that was enough to prompt me to get rinsed off as soon as possible. No need to leave lingering kochia dust anywhere to attack me later!
Once in the shower again, I went through the same routine with washing my face and then rinsing it a lot. This time the symptoms didn’t take as long to calm down. I also washed my wrists with soap twice and after the second time, the itching there subsided.
And all was well.
I do think the soap I use is key to all of this. As I said, I have to be very careful what I put on my skin. For many years I have used only pure, old-fashioned soap. Often this has been from specialty soap makers, which is expensive and hard to find.
Last year I was able to find the best pure soap I have ever used sold on amazon.com. It is only pure soap. No additives. Not only that, but it is well aged, so it is firmer than any other pure soap I have used and the bars last a long time. They don’t turn to mush when they get in the water. I highly recommend the brand Grandma’s Pure Lye Soap Bar.
I’m feeling more hopeful about dealing with the kochia now. Maybe all my work will inspire the neighbors, too…