Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bulb Irritation

I went bulb shopping last night and the experience reduced me to a raving lunatic. No, there was no bulb shortage. I didn’t have to fight with other shoppers. I wasn’t even shocked at the price (I had mentally steeled myself). I was brought down by bulb dust, probably from the hyacinths.

I’ve read that hyacinth bulbs can irritate the skin of some people, but I’ve never had a problem handling them before. As I dug through the bins and sorted through the misplaced bags of bulbs, I stirred up a mighty dust cloud. My neck and the underside of my jaw were evidently coated in bulb dust, irritating the tender skin.

The itch quietly began as I finished my selection. Absentmindedly, I rubbed at the sensation, rather than scratching, and compounded the problem as I smeared myself with the irritant. By the time I reached the register, I was going mad with the need to scratch myself raw. I tapped my nails impatiently as the clerk prolonged the transaction ahead of me to chat with a child. I surreptitiously abraded my neck as she scanned my merchandise and filled my bags. I didn’t want to look as if I had some communicable disease. As I walked through the parking lot, my full hands prevented me from finding relief. Once in the car, though, I tossed the bags aside and scratched my neck and jaw with abandon, reveling in the sensation. The itch was so strong that I even checked myself for hives. All I had to show for the experience was a series of angry red stripes from my nails.

By the time I reached home, the itchiness had, thankfully, subsided. I placed my shopping bags on the floor and the cats, as usual, checked out my purchases. Perversely, they seemed intensely interested in the hyacinths and began to rub themselves on the bulbs. I can only imagine how horrible it would be for them to track hyacinth dust onto the couch and into my bed. I immediately moved the bulbs to the refrigerator. When I plant them, I will definitely be wearing gloves. Ten minutes of intense itching was all the warning I needed.


Blogger Renee said...

When I worked for White Flower Farm, I edited their bulb catalogue (late 90s, early 00s), and used to repeat the warning about hyacinths... but, with dozens of employees handling thousands of bulbs, and thousands of customers, never once got a confirmation that anyone had a reaction to hyacinths... sorry to hear you drew the unlucky straw. But glad that the reaction didn't last too long, and now you know to wear rubber gloves when handling the bulbs. ... Hyacinths are so fragrant, it would be a shame not to have them next spring.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

I've never heard of an allergic reaction to "hyacinth dust", but will be careful in the future. I always get about a dozen or so and force them in hyacinth vases.

2:55 AM  
Blogger sewobsessed said...

Interesting! Who Knew?!

5:46 AM  
Blogger LostRoses said...

Well that answers a 30 year-old question for me. Way back when, I worked in a department store and in the fall we sold loose bulbs. After sorting them in their proper bins I came down with the same sort of mad itching you described. I've always bought sacks of bulbs ever since so I don't have to do any sorting. I was never sure which bulbs were the culprits till now!

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I too get the same type of reaction when handling hyacinth bulbs. However, It doesn't even have to be bulb dust for me to get an allergic reaction. If I so much as touch the bulb or especially if I would happen to cut the green part of the stalk of the flowering plant and get some of the sap on my hands, look out! My ears become red hot and itchy as well as the palms of my hands and the cheeks of my face. The first time this happened I couldn't believe what was going on until I figured out what must have triggered it.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Just 5 minutes ago, I was putting a hyacinth bulb in a sprouting container and started itching and burning like mad! It was terrible! My face and neck felt horrible! I'm glad to know it's not just me!


3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just picking out some bulbs and a bag of hyacinth bulbs fell down upon me from the top shelf. Within a couple of minutes my neck and chin were itching so intensely that I ran to find a mirror in the store as I was sure I had a horrible case of hives. I flew home, washed my neck and chin and patted on medicated powder. The itch is starting to subside and I found this article on the web. It looks like this is fairly common. I will pass my findings on to advise people to beware when handling hyacinth bulbs! Thanks

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was finishing putting 20 hyacinth bulbs into the ground, I started having an intense itching on my face and neck. It continued to worsen until I washed thoroughly with hot water. It's beginning to subside after about 5 minutes of washing. I've never had this kind of reaction when planting bulbs in the fall before--although I have never planted so many hyacinth bulbs at one time.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just finished planting jan pennings hyacinth bulbs from smith & hawken fall 2008 collection-in chicago area....wearing gloves, coat, pants-forgot to cover the neck & WOW is it ever ITCHING!!!! same thing happened in store, hence I knew to wear gloves......suggest covering neck for those with sensitivity!!!

2:22 PM  
Anonymous ashleigh said...

i to had a violent reaction when planting hyacinth bulbs, i was only holding them for less than a few minutes when my face, neck and chest started itching and burning.
my throat seemed to close over and it was hard to swallow (maybe this was just panic!) i put compresses of cold water on for about 15 minutes before the burning and redness went. nearly an hour later i am still itching .

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both a co-worker and I experienced the same thing after planting left-over bulbs from our nursery. Weeks later I wore the same fleece jacket that hadn't been washed. It started all over again, and as intense. I wonder what chemical it is in the hyacinths that triggers it? I'll never go near them again.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh! Am so glad to see this here ... mystery solved!

I planted some hyacinth bulbs and, not thinking about it, my neck started to itch a little. I scratched it a bit (thought it was a hair) .... but it started to itch like mad .... like a house-on-fire. I had to finish up quickly, stop what I was doing and just get out of there. As I to the sink, thinking perhaps I had gotten some fertilizer on me or something, I was hoping we had some benadryl or seomthing. It felt SOOO horrendous. I rushed to the sink, could not itch fast enough and just doused myself in soapy water, shirt and all. Ahhhhhh -- relief.

To this day I thought it was the fertilizer.

Now I know.

How funny and



- K.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

I just planted some hyacinth bulbs and thought a mosquito got me but then my whole face and neck got to itching and burning. I finished planting in agony then washed my face, put rubbing alcohol on then put some spray on generic benedryl...ahh... better now. Next time I won't dump the dust out of the bag and will be more careful. I don't recall this ever happening to me before but as I get older I seem to get more allergic to things.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Adi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My initiation to the allergy came about six weeks ago when I purchased a couple of bags of bulbs. I was certain I had gotten jalapeno juice on my face and neck. Today I planted the bulbs and was able to accurately determine an apparent allergy. The sudden onset & intensity of the burning and itching is indescribable. One of the factors that amazed me is that my reaction seemed to be pinpointed to just the neck & face. Very odd that the hands used to handle the bulbs were exempt.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Kerissa said...

I have been helping my mom sort flower bulds this passed month and every time i was up helping her we would start to get an itchy reaction mostly on the neck and face we were thinking that the bulds might have been dusted with a fungicide or something like that I had not know of any one type of buld giving people a rash, we did find that a quick wash of the neck face and hands seemed to clear most of it up and a shower seemed to take care of the rest when i got home.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was buying hyacinth's today and within one minute of touching a bulb I felt intense heat and the need to itch my neck and face. I wanted to itch the skin right off my bones, it would have felt better then the burning! It happened so quick, and I prayed that I didn't see any cops on my way home because I was driving so fast! I was completely shocked when I looked in the mirror and I looked normal! I expected there to be huge welts or something, but nothing! I took a benedryl and washed up and feel so much better!

7:03 PM  
Blogger jodi said...

I just got home from the store buying these bulbs...found them yetserday at walmart for .02 a pack of 6.....didnt realize how cheep they were till i got home...anyway,yesterday while at the store i started itching sooo bad...same as you ...neck n chest.....when i went back today and baught the rest that they had for that happened again...didnt realize it was the bulbs untill i startded watching some you tube videos about planting them...holy cow .....

8:12 PM  
Blogger Julie Richards said...

Glad to see I am not the only one. Never knew a bulb could do this until now. I am curious to know why everyone has the same reaction about the face and neck. Why not the arms or hands? Weird. I don't wear gloves when gardening, until now!

4:21 PM  

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